Contractors are held to high standards in California, higher than many other business operators. In California, construction represents a large industry that has a lot of influence on the state economy. California still has a lot of development potential, which can boost the economy if done right. The construction industry has a big part in this and can make or break economic success. Construction can also be a dangerous or unsafe industry and so requires special guidelines and requirements not required by many other businesses. In order to maintain the integrity of the construction industry and ensure consumers and the public alike are protected, California contractors are required to maintain a valid and current state contractors license. Your official title does not need to be contractor. Anyone who builds, repairs, tears down or otherwise alters buildings or other structures like roads, by themselves or through the services of others, needs a valid contractor's license in the state of California. This excludes those working on personal property. The California Department of Consumer affairs handles the state's contractor licenses through the Contractors State License board. If you are conducting your business without a valid contractor's license, you can face a misdemeanor criminal charge. For a first time offense, you can face up to six months in jail and up to a $5,000 fine or a combination of the two. You will also face an administrative fine, which can range from $200 to $15,000. With a second offense you will face 90 days in jail and a fine up to $5,000 or 20% of the contract price, whichever is more. Operating without a contractors license will result in a misdemeanor charge however if you defraud anyone by leading them to believe you are a licensed contractor, or use someone else's contractors license as your own, you can be charged with a felony. You will also face felony charges if operating without a contractor's license in a natural disaster area. The Contractors State License Board also investigate cases of contractor fraud in cases where it appears a contractor is operating without a license. Not renewing your contractor's license, letting your license lapse, is similarly illegal and can be prosecuted. Failing to renew your license on time will also result in an increased fee to renew it after that date. Reactivate your license if you discover it has lapsed right away to avoid any legal complications. Revoked licenses are searchable online so don't take any chances on a customer looking up to see if your license is valid. In such a case, the Contractors State License Board is ultimately concerned with consumer safety. If you operate without a contractor's license, consumers are not legally required to pay you, which further incentivize maintaining a valid license. You must have a valid state contractors license at the time you enter into the contract. If you fail to maintain a valid license for the duration of the contract or lie about having a valid license at the time of the contract signing, you can be prosecuted. You holding a valid contractor license is a part of the contract you enter in to with the customer and if you fail to uphold this part of the contract, the contract is therefore void, leaving you with little or no legal ability to pursue actions against the customer if they refuse to pay for unlicensed work. Not only that, but the customer can seek damages from the void contract from you. Maintaining a valid contractors license is in almost all cases the most affordable way to conduct contractor work given the potential for criminal prosecution, fines and the loss of work when contracts are void. Contractors' license laws can be complex, especially for inexperienced contractors. They seek to maintain the safety of the construction industry, thus protecting consumers from shoddy construction practices, workers from unsafe construction work sites and the general public from unregulated development. If you are facing charges of operating without a license or contractor license fraud, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. A good attorney will know these laws well and can help you navigate the state license board process, potentially saving you time, money and your license.
Have you been accused of operating without a contractor's license? Criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens knows how to protect the livelihood of your business in face of criminal charges. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert criminal defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.