State Board Helps the Licensed and Fights the Unlicensed
While Supporting Growth Throughout the Golden State
Addressing the massive need for housing in California and new density solutions like ADUs is increasing demand for contractors throughout the state and as a result the importance of the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB).
As the state’s licensing authority, CSLB is responsible for making sure contractors are properly credentials and actively meeting building regulations while dealing with an increasingly aggressive community of unlicensed contractors and DIY homeowner builders focused on avoiding licensing by the state. Established in 1929, the Board is part of the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and licenses and regulates contractors in 44 classifications that comprise the construction industry in the state.
In 2018, there were more than 294,000 active licenses registered under the 44 different classifications of the CSLB licensing system. The CSLB also registers Home Improvement Salespersons (HIS) and as of 2018, there were more than 18,000 active HIS in California.
Those numbers clearly demonstrate how substantial the number of contractors and construction is in the state and how important a role CSLB plays in ensuring safety and quality in building in California.
Yet even with so many licensed contractors working, the CSLB’s mission is far from complete. According to CSLB’s Chief of Public Affairs Rick Lopes, unlicensed construction projects are also among the considerable challenges faced by the Board.
“Not only can construction performed without a permit can expose a homeowner to additional liability and costs, failure to obtain a building permit is a violation of Contractors License Law,” he said. “Also, when a contractor performs improvement work without a local building permit, it is a violation of Business and Professions (B&P) Code sections 7110 and 7090.”
Contractors who violate the law are subject to disciplinary action by CSLB, including civil penalty assessments of up to $5,000 per violation, an order of correction that requires payment of permit fees and any assessed penalties imposed by the local building department, and suspension or revocation of the license.
Lopes noted that among the biggest challenges facing licensed contractors is finding a qualified workforce, especially with disasters that have hit California over the past three years, and permitting, which remains the purview of local city governments and is subject to implementation of recently passed statewide legislation. “Local building departments work in concert with CSLB and the responsibility to make permitting easier, more efficient or more accessible is really something that’s their responsibility,” he said.
According to Lopes, contractors should not be fooled into thinking that no one will discover when a permit has not been pulled. There are numerous examples of CSLB enforcement staff catching contractors who lack a building permit when investigating a complaint. Contractors should also be aware that anyone can file an anonymous complaint against a contractor with CSLB solely for his or her failure to obtain a required building permit.
“The laws that require our licensees to follow all building permit requirements allow us to discipline their licenses if they don’t. Permit enforcement by CSLB has been and remains an enforcement priority,” he said.
CSLB also looks after the growing trend of owner-builders who try to avoid working with licensed professionals.
An owner builder who owns the property, acts as the general contractor on the job, and either does the work or has employees or licensed subcontractors work on the job can run into serious problems when they believe they can save money by not hiring a licensed general contractor to oversee improvements on their property. Homeowner builders also try to save money by hiring unlicensed crews to work their projects and then lie on the permit application by saying they as homeowners will do the work.
“We have issue with contractors that get their clients to pull permits as an owner-builder” said Lopes.
Unfortunately, most homeowners don’t know they can face legal and financial issues if they choose to be an owner-builder and don’t follow the law.
For those who doubt the agency’s commitment to ensuring proper licensing, Lopes emphasized specifically that “CSLB makes it a point to ensure contractors who violate the law are as severely disciplined as the law allows.”
More information about CSLB is at http://www.cslb.ca.gov/ or call 800-321-CSLB (2752).