What Should You Know About Contractor Requirements?

Choosing the right contractor for home repairs can be challenging. Scheduling bids, checking references, and managing contracts are all part of the process. Before you sign, remember to do your research regarding your contractor’s license. A little information can save a lot of potential time and money.

In California all contractors must have a license to perform any jobs worth more than $500. Contracts are overseen by the California Contractors State License Board. Homeowners generally work with Class B general contractors. Your home construction project might require you to hire a Class C specialty contractor who does specific work – such as swimming pool repair, electrical and plumbing work, etc.

Becoming a licensed contractor can be a rigorous process involving specific training, verifiable work experience or a degree in specific fields such as an associate degree in electrical technology or renewable energy. Training might involve apprenticeships and classroom training.

Residential Remodeling General Contractors – What to Look For

Contractor licensing is serious business.  Obtaining a license means studying for and passing an exam and paying fees. Effective January 1, 2023 aspiring contractors must also post a $25,000 surety bond. Contractors must submit fingerprints and take an open-book asbestos exam online. Licensing also requires a background check. In some cases, criminal convictions (or unresolved complaints) can prevent obtaining a license. It is illegal for unlicensed California contracts to advertise on websites, flyers, business cards etc.

It is Easy to Check on the Status of a Contractor’s License

You can search a contractor’s license number at the Contractors State License Board database. This number should be on your contractor’s plastic pocket license, or on any contract you sign. The database will show you the contractor’s license status (should be current and active) as well as classifications, bond numbers and amounts, and proof of workers compensation (requirements vary by specialty). Remember a journey-level contractor is unlicensed and not able to contract for jobs more than $500 in labor and materials.

An additional way to confirm a contractor’s license number is to examine the commercial vehicle of your contractor. According to the law, the contractor’s business name and license number must be clearly visible on their truck

Things Can Go Wrong Anyway…

There are strict penalties for contractors who fail to meet ongoing requirements of their licensure. When a project goes wrong, consumers can file complaints on both licensed and unlicensed contractors for up to four years. The California State License Board (CSLB) mission is to protect the public, but they do not handle restitution beyond limited damages (small claims). Complaint forms can be filed online at the CSLB website.  If you seek damages for bad or wrong work done by your contractors you will most likely need to file a lawsuit.

Verify Contractor’s license before your home construction project begins

In the excitement and disruption of extensive home construction, remodeling, or repairs, it can be easy to overlook the details of contractor requirements. Time spent thoroughly researching license status, prior customer complaints and reviews by other customers is well invested. Most California contractors are capable and trustworthy – but faulty workmanship can sometimes be a matter of life and death.  Verify the details behind the contract before starting your project. If you run into trouble, contact a real estate attorney to help solve problems caused by your contractor.


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Mary Catherine Wiederhold

Real Estate Attorney
1458 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

Mary Catherine Wiederhold
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