San Diego License Attorney is a well-reputed professional license defense law firm helping professionals in San Diego, California. The firm’s experienced attorneys have years of experience defending professionals and their professional license from all possible disciplinary actions, thus protecting their reputation, career, and future. The expert attorneys have successfully represented contractors and general contractors before the California licensing board fighting against the revocation of contractor licenses. Our law firm understands the complex intersection of licensing and criminal law and can skillfully defend you while minimizing exposure to sanctions and disciplinary measures.
Contractors and General Contractors in California
The U.S. construction industry employs over 7 million people and creates nearly $1.3 trillion worth of structures annually. Moreover, it is one of the major contributors to the U.S. economy. With more than 300,000 licensed contractors, California has witnessed some major construction projects over the years, which include the construction of medical buildings, sports and entertainment centers, hotels, industrial projects, and more. Contractors undertake huge construction projects and supervise day-to-day operations, starting right from assessing the project plans to oversee physical labor and beyond.
Although no formal education is required to work as a general or specialty contractor, The work of a contractor demands the know-how, training, and applied experience to get a professional license and build a successful career in this industry. A contractor works directly with the client and manages every aspect of a construction or renovation project at hand. Everything from providing the required material, equipment, labor, and services to getting building permits, a general contractor does it all. Contractors sometimes hire specialized subcontractors to perform portions of the project and have to look after their work as well. A general contractor in California can build anything from a new office building, the second story in a house, highway, railroad, parking facility, excavation, or any other structure in the state.
In California, as a general contractor, you must possess a state license from the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) for any building or construction work that is worth $500 or more. To get a contractor license, you must have at least four (4) full years of experience at a journeyman level over the past ten (10) years or have worked as a contractor, supervisor, or foreman in the desired category of contractor’s licenses. In California, you will have to pass a business and law exam, as well as a trade exam, and show proof of a surety bond for hold a state license. You can apply and get a general engineering contractor or general building contractor license based on your construction capabilities.
Class A licenses are for general engineering contractors that deal with paving, grading, excavation, irrigation, and other related work areas. Class B licenses are associated with general building contractors who deal in building or remodeling both residential and commercial properties. Such contractors are accomplished at handling a complete project on their own and hire subcontractors for handling diverse project tasks. There is another class of contractor license—Class C—which applies to specialty contractors. This class has 41 different types of licenses, including electrical work, HVAC work, fencing, drywall installation, plumbing, and so on.
As a general contractor, you have to deliver such a vast array of construction work and responsibilities, and there can be instances when you can be automatically involved in circumstances that could lead to a formal consumer complaint with California’s state licensing board.
A single accusation leveled against you can potentially destroy your career, your reputation, and everything else you have achieved over the years. Any complaint filed against you will affect your capability—to conduct the construction work, to obtain payment bonds, to gain referrals, to effectively contest while bidding on projects, and above all, to preserve and enhance your reputation in the industry. In addition to that, the myriad governing rules and laws concerning the disciplinary proceedings of contractor license are so complicated to understand, making it practically impossible for a layperson to defend their contractor license, and ultimately their career.
If you have received a notification of complaint or accusation by an investigator of the California Contractor’s State License Board, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced contractor license defense attorney in California. Any statement you make in front of an investigator can be used against you later in the case proceedings.
California Contractors State License Board: Purpose and Responsibilities
California's CSLB, established in 1929, is the state licensing board that works under the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) in order to enforce the different licensure requirements. It enforces the business and profession code of conduct and regulates the construction industry through policies that protect consumers from being victimized by contractors who violate their professional or licensing obligations.
The board has a mission to work in order to promote the safety, welfare, and health of the people in matters relating to construction. To accomplish this, depending on the complaints filed, CSLB may initiate an investigation, and if proved right, issues a disciplinary action against the California contractors. The severity of the disciplinary action issued is often established on the nature and seriousness of the allegations and may vary from a letter to a warning to even the loss of a professional contractor’s license. Typically, an allegation involving potential health and safety violations is treated with the highest priority.
It is important for you to understand that the board is not on your side; it is a disciplinary board against contractors. The board is not to help the construction contractors or help the industry grow. The primary responsibility of the board is to police contractors and protect the general public from financial or physical sufferings as a result of risky construction practices undertaken by some unscrupulous contractors.
Common Reasons for Disciplinary Actions by CSLB
A disciplinary investigation by CSLB can be triggered by a complaint against a contractor filed by a homeowner (consumer), a subcontractor, other contractors, and sometimes by a public agency. Most complaints that expose a contractor to disciplinary action by the CSLB are a result of misunderstandings or poor communication between the contractor and the client, cost overruns due to mismanagement or inexperience on part of the contractor, or just sometimes just poorly worded contracts, which are taken advantage of to force a below contract financial settlement. A disciplinary investigation can also be triggered against a contractor facing a criminal conviction. The statute of limitations for the board to file an accusation against a licensed contractor in California is four years.
Here are some common complaints under the CSLB jurisdiction that lead to disciplinary actions:
- Poor workmanship or not matching up to the trade standards in work
- Contractual disputes, so-called violation of contract
- Failure to complete a construction project
- Unlawfully taking payments
- Failure to make payments to material suppliers, subcontractors, or employees
- Use of incorrect, misleading or dishonest advertising
- Violation of building codes
- Frauds like insurance fraud or real estate fraud
- Drug/alcohol abuse, particularly on the job site
- Working with no license
- Criminal conviction affecting your contracting activities
- Already under investigation charged by another state’s licensing board
Disciplinary Process of CSLB
Once the CSLB receives a written complaint, it goes through a review process under which the CSLB determines if the consumer complaint falls within the limitations of the board. At times, the complaint is dismissed as unverified, if it lacks satisfactory evidence or does not fall within the board’s jurisdiction.
The complainant is informed with a written notice that their complaint has been received. The contractor in question will also be notified and urged to resolve the underlying complaint with no further intervention of the board.
When the complaint is not resolved between the two parties, the CSLB will attempt the path of dispute mediation or settlement, if appropriate, for early resolution of cases. This typically involves the settlement of the dispute in lieu of a substantial payment. You may think of it as an early opportunity to resolve a disciplinary case at a lower cost and damage. An attorney can help a contractor choose and decide if it could be a profitable deal in their case.
If this form of alternative dispute resolution fails, CSLB will choose one from several additional settlement options considering all the facts in the context of the case. The possible settlement options could include the assignment of an ER (enforcement representative) for further investigation, referral to an arbitration program, or referral to alternative civil or dispute resolution methods.
Many times, if a contractor is not a repeat violator or the problem is not egregious, the complaint may be closed with a warning letter that warns the contractor that any further violations will result in disciplinary actions. The issued warning letters are kept in the contractor’s record and can later be used against the contractor as an aggravating factor in case of disciplinary proceedings held in the future.
More serious complaints are referred for further investigation by the ER, who may ask for further information and/or documentation from the complainant and interview all the related parties to gather more information. If the investigation determines a violation of the Contractors Law and is concluded with clear and convincing evidence against the contractor in question, based on ER’s judgment, one of the following things will happen:
- A CSLB arbitration program
- A citation with maximum civil penalties of up to $5,000
- An accusation charge that could lead to license suspension or revocation
- Referral to criminal prosecution based on the complaint
- A petition to seek injunctive relief
The unsuccessful resolution of the complaint after mediation is often recommended for CSLB-sponsored arbitration or transferred to the ER for additional investigation.
There are two types of arbitration programs administered by CSLB: mandatory arbitration and voluntary arbitration. CSLB offers arbitration to resolve disputes the meet specific criteria. CSLB sponsors such programs and only contractors in good standing with CSLB qualify to participate in the arbitration; for instance, the contractor must not have a history of repeated or similar violations. These arbitration programs involve resolving the disputes between both parties in a timely manner. Mandatory arbitration is intended for disputes with allegations of damages $12,500 or less, while a voluntary arbitration is for resolving disputes of financial remedy with alleged damages are between $12,500 and $50,000.
Disciplinary action by CSLB in the form of a citation will require the contractor to take specific remedial measures. For instance, the CSLB may want you to correct, or pay to correct, a fault or shortcoming in your construction work. A citation may contain penalties up to a sum of $5,000. The penalty amount is sometimes immensely unwarranted compared to the owner’s actual loss. You can choose to pay the civil penalty and fix it or may seek to appeal all or any portion of the citation.
In some cases, after the process of arbitration, if the CSLB issues an accusation. In a typical accusation proceeding, the board will certainly seek a suspension or revocation of your license along with civil penalties, restitution, attorney's fees, and other costs of the investigation. This is the harshest form of discipline and a more formal process compared to the much simpler citation procedure. You can also deny the accusation and appeal for a trial consideration before an ALJ (administrative law judge), in an official administrative hearing. Once you are notified of the accusation or denial of a license by CSLB, you only have 15 days to file a responsive pleading – Notice of Defense, starting from the date the notice was sent. If the Notice of Defense is not filed by the deadline date, your license is revoked by default. A skilled license defense attorney may provide exculpatory and mitigating evidence in your support at the administrative hearing to avoid the revocation or suspension of the license.
If your license has been suspended, you are not allowed to work during the period of suspension. If your license has been revoked already, you can also apply for license reinstatement with the help of a license defense attorney. However, you are not allowed to apply for reinstatement for a minimum of one (1) to five (5) years, based on the type of the previous offense.
Disciplinary Action Triggered By Criminal Conviction
Apart from civil disciplinary actions, CSLB investigations can turn into criminal charges. A contractor may have to deal with certain criminal charges for serious violations, making attorney representation essential. If a contractor has been convicted of committing certain kinds of crimes that are substantially related to different activities performed by a contractor, then, under the criminal statues of the Contractors’ Licensing Law, the board can request the initiation of criminal legal processes. The CSLB and court can have a broad interpretation of “substantially related” crimes and typically includes those that are related to the functions, qualifications, or duties of a licensed contractor. Crimes that can trigger disciplinary action in case of conviction typically include any felony or misdemeanor that involves dishonesty, theft, fraud, physical violence, DUI, etc.
Someone applying for a contractor's license may face rejection if they are convicted for committing a crime that was "substantially related" to contracting activities in a period of last seven (7) years. For more harsher crimes, the CSLB may reject applicants even if they were committed more than seven (7) years ago.
The California state licensing board also takes complaints against unlicensed contractors or unlicensed contracting activities very seriously. There are stiff penalties and fines in addition to the stigma of being found guilty or enter a plea of guilty. Since it is not legal for an unlicensed person to work as a contractor and perform activities if the contract price is more than $500, together with materials and labor costs, this allegation will be charged as a criminal conviction. Also, it is not legal for one contractor to make use of another contractor’s license, just like it is illegal for a person to use another person’s driver’s license.
San Diego Licensing Defense Attorney with Specialization in Contractor and General Contractor Licenses Near Me
Are you a licensed contractor or general contractor and unfortunately your professional license is at stake as a result of some allegations of misconduct? We understand how traumatic a situation is when your professional license is on the line, and disciplinary action or investigation is brought up against you by a licensing board. We have skilled and experienced attorneys at San Diego License Attorney law firm who can put up a successful argument in your defense. Our expert lawyers understand how the professional licensing proceedings work, and how the licensing board authorities think. Our team of legal experts have extensive experience and follow a proactive approach in representing clients against the state licensing boards’ disciplinary actions and accusations. Moreover, we also provide contractors with strategies to avoid complaints in the future. Call us at 619-728-7448 and talk to a legal expert at the firm to discuss your contractor and general contractor license defense case. Get in touch to learn more about how we can help you!