Understanding California’s Contractors’ License Laws

In California, the contractor (builder) cannot collect for work performed if he did so without a license, even if he completed the work and the homeowner received a benefit from the home improvement. This law is set forth in order to protect the public. If a contractor works without a license, there are substantial criminal and civil penalties, even if there is a lapse of suspension in the validity of a license during construction. Lack of a valid license during construction may require return of all compensation paid to the contractor – the rule applies even when the owner knows beforehand that the contractor is unlicensed.

Who is a contractor?

A contractor is also known as a builder and has a broad definition. Ultimately, a contractor is anyone who undertakes to, or does himself or herself, or by or through others, constructs, alters, repair, improve or demolish any building, road or other improvement. All contractors must be licensed.

What is the owner-builder exception?

An owner-builder is exempt from having to have a contractor license if he or she is improving or building on their own property, as long as none of the improvements are intended to be sold. The owner must personally perform the work or it must be performed by his or her employees.

There are many penalties that can occur when a contractor practices unlicensed. Learn more about the details of California's contractors' license laws by contacting an experienced civil litigation lawyer in California today. Catanese & Wells' civil litigation group specializes in California contractor disputes, as well as commercial disputes.

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