Monthly Archives: January 2024

The California CSLB Reminds Licensees of New Laws Beginning January 1, 2024

We say Happy New Year to all acting and hopeful California contractors! It’s important – as always – to take a closer look at changes to the law for California contractors in the coming year.

The Contractor State License Board (CSLB) just released a press release outlining the most important pieces of legislation for contractors. There are some big ones this year – so let’s make sure you’re prepared to stay compliant in 2024.

First, we’ll provide the Contractor State License Board’s (CSLB) missive to all contractors, and then we’ll provide a little breakdown of what the text actually means for contractors in the coming year. Let’s check it out!

Sacramento, CA – Heading into 2024, the Contractors State License Board wants to remind licensees of new laws taking effect in the new year.

SB 630 (Dodd)
This bill requires CSLB licensees and applicants to provide an email address, if available, when they obtain and renew licenses. The email addresses are not subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act. This bill also authorizes the Registrar to automatically reimpose license revocation when probationary conditions placed on a license are not met. (Chapter 153, Statutes of 2023)

AB 336 (Cervantes)
This bill requires licensees with a workers’ compensation policy to provide the top three workers’ compensation classification codes on their workers’ compensation policy when they renew their licenses. Those codes will be posted on the CSLB license lookup webpage. Licenses won’t be renewed without the codes. However, the bill allows for retroactive renewal if the licensee provides the codes within 30 days after receiving notice of the denial. (Chapter 323, Statutes of 2023)

AB 1204 (Holden)
This bill prohibits specialty contractors from subcontracting with two or more contractors in the same classification on the same jobsite unless the subcontractor has employees who perform the work in the relevant classification or are party to a collective bargaining agreement. This bill makes violations of this section cause for disciplinary action. (Chapter 568, Statutes of 2023)

SB 601 (McGuire)
This bill increases the statute of limitations to three years for misdemeanor violations by a licensed contractor for allowing an unlicensed person to use their contractor license. This bill also requires courts to assess the maximum civil penalty for specified home improvement contract violations in declared disaster areas. (Chapter 403, Statutes of 2023)”

SB 630: Contractors’ Email Addresses

SB 630 (Dodd) specifically requires that applicants, registrants, or licensees who possess a valid email address must provide this email to the board at the time of application or renewal. In safeguarding the privacy of individuals involved, the bill stipulates that these email addresses are not subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act or other similar laws, except in specific circumstances mandated by a court order.

Additionally, SB 630 changes probationary conditions for contractors who have violated the law. It allows for a stay of execution of disciplinary decisions, contingent on the completion of specified probation terms and conditions. Crucially, if these terms and conditions are not fully complied with, it can result in the automatic termination of the stay of execution, thus reinforcing the accountability of licensees under disciplinary action.

The bill also includes provisions for the payment of restitution and the costs of investigation, enrollment in specific coursework, and successful completion of relevant examinations as part of the probationary conditions.

AB 336: Workers’ Compensation Requirements

AB 336 (Cervantes) sounds complicated but it isn’t. It requires any contractor who has Workers’ Compensation to provide to the CSLB three classification codes that are on their insurance policy.

Specifically, contractors need to identify the three classification codes for which the highest estimated payroll is reported on the policy. If there are fewer than three classification codes reported, all the reported codes must be provided.

This bill mandates that the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) include these classification codes in the public license detail on its website when updating for an active renewal. However, the CSLB is not required to verify the accuracy of these codes and is not liable for any misreported classification codes by a licensee.

In essence, AB 336 aims to improve transparency and accountability in the realm of workers’ compensation insurance among contractors. It ensures that the relevant classification codes are readily available and accessible, contributing to better regulatory practices in the industry

AB 1204: Multiple Class C Contractors

AB 1204 (Holden) relates to specific Class C specialty contractors who are prohibited from entering into contracts for work on the same project or undertaking with more than one subcontractor in the same license classification.

  • This restriction is subject to two key exceptions:
    The subcontractor employs persons who are classified as employees to perform work in that license classification on the project.
  • The specialty contractor is a signatory to a bona fide collective bargaining agreement covering the type of work performed on the project and addressing the issue of subcontracting or subletting.

SB 601: A Litany Of Changes

SB 601 (McGuire) makes several important changes to contract law for contractors, specifically aiming at preventing fraud, especially in disaster areas. It covers a few specific areas: home improvement contracts, liens, provisions for bonds, criminal penalties for violations, and restitution for fraud. In greater detail, SB 601 makes changes to:

  • Home Improvement Contracts Requirements: The bill outlines the specific things that are required to be in home improvement contractors. This includes stipulations about the contract being in writing, the inclusion of the full contract amount, separation of finance charges, limitations on down payments, and specific schedules of payments.
  • Payment and Lien Release: Except for a down payment, contractors should not request or accept payment exceeding the value of work performed or material delivered. It also requires contractors to furnish a full and unconditional release from any potential lien claimant for any part of the work for which payment has been made – but only if requested by the client.
  • Provisions for Contractors with Bonds: Contractors furnishing certain types of bonds or joint control approved by the registrar are exempt from some of these requirements and may accept payment before completion of work.
  • Criminal Penalties: The bill outlines the specific misdemeanor charges for violations of these provisions, with increased fines in areas damaged by natural disasters. Furthermore, it specifies a statute of limitations for bringing actions against licensed and unlicensed contractors.
  • Restitution for Fraud in Disaster Areas: In cases of fraud related to natural disaster repairs, the bill mandates full restitution to the victim based on the defendant’s ability to pay, along with potential additional fines.
  • Operative Date: The section concerning home improvement contracts becomes operative on July 1, 2024.

Remember – staying compliant is nobody’s job but yours. Do your diligence and make sure that you’re constantly on top of things, and you’ve got nothing to worry about from Johnny Law!

What Skills Do You Need To Be A Contractor/Builder?

If you’re just starting out in the construction industry, you might wonder what specific skills you’ll need to succeed in your career. Don’t worry – this is a common question that all beginners in any industry have when they’re just starting their careers.

In this guide, we’ll cover the essential skills that any contractor will need to survive as a construction contractor/builder, both now and in the future.

As always, we’ll keep our information specific and relevant to California as that’s our expertise – check in with your local contractor’s licensing board for information in your area.

Let’s begin!

Choose Your Contracting Career Path

When defining what skills you’ll need in your career as a construction contractor, it’s essential you understand what area of construction you’ll be working in.

Sure, anyone can start hammering some nails on a job site, but if you really want to succeed as a contractor, you really need to plan your future appropriately.

Do you want to be a specialist who works in air conditioning? What about a plumber? Maybe you want to be an engineer or maybe you want to oversee entire projects as a general contractor.

Contractor Licenses Across America

Whatever it is you want to do, you should be aware of the license, bonding, insurance, and other legal requirements surrounding the work you do. In many states, you may not need any of these to do work as a contractor. In many more states, like California, you need a license to be a contractor.

In California, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is the governmental authority that oversees contractors and makes sure that they stay licensed. Anyone who does construction work over $500 in California without a license faces severe penalties.

The CSLB has three different designations for contractors, based on the type of work they do.

The CSLB Class A, B, and C Licenses

  • Class A (General Engineering Contractor License): This license group is for people who work on specialized engineering projects like overpasses, airports, and highways.
  • Class B (General Building Contractor License): This classification is for general contractors, whose primary role is constructing structures for support, shelter, and enclosure. It requires involvement in at least two unrelated building trades or crafts.
  • Class B-2 (Residential Remodeling Contractor License): This contractor’s license is specifically for remodeling contractors. B-2 license holders can only make improvements to existing residential wood frame structures, involving at least three unrelated building trades or crafts.
  • Class C (Specialty Contractor License): Class C licenses are tradespeople licenses in California – your plumbers, your electricians, your HVAC workers, and so on. The list is long – there are even classifications for tree pruners!

Steps to Obtain a Contractor License in California

Getting a contractor license in California is no easy task – which is why we suggest knowing exactly what contractor area you’d like to work in as your career.

Basic Eligibility Requirements:

  • Minimum age of 18 years.
  • Four years of experience at the journey level or equivalent.
  • Possession of a $25,000 surety bond for consumer and employee protection (updated from $15,000 in January 2023).

Application Process:

  • Submit a detailed application to the CSLB, including business details, license type, and personal information.
  • Undergo a criminal background check, including fingerprints.
  • Pay all fees.

Licensing Exam:

  • Pass the mandatory CSLB licensing exam, made up of two sections: the law and business section and a practical test specific to the applicant’s license type. For example, electricians would get electrical-related questions on their trade exam.

Bonding and Insurance:

  • Provide proof of contractor license bond and workers’ compensation and liability insurance.
  • Pay the initial licensing fee after passing the exam.

Additional Licensing Considerations

  • State Business Licenses: Additional statewide business licenses might be required to operate legally in your state. California has locality-specific licensing. For example, San Francisco requires additional licensing for contractors on specific projects.

Do I Need School As A Contractor?

As we’ve covered many, many times before – no, you do not need a four-year degree to get your contractor’s license, like many jobs.

While formal education is not a mandatory requirement for obtaining a contractor’s license in California, we have to recommend it, especially for the dreaded CSLB exam.

This brutal test takes 3 hours and consists of over 120 questions related to law, business, and your chosen area of expertise. Even the most seasoned contractors have failed it – adding time and energy to their budget.

One of the best things about being a contractor is not having to go to college, but the reality is there are some things you just have to learn in a classroom.

General Skills for Success as a Contractor in California

While every classification has its specific requirements, there are some general areas of expertise that ALL contractors should seek to master if they wish to be successful contractors.

  • Technical Skills: Specific construction skills relevant to your license class. Every license classification has specific tech skills you need to know.
  • Business Management: Skills in project management, budgeting, and client relations are essential to maintaining a business no matter what industry you’re in.
  • Legal Compliance: Understanding state and local regulations, building codes, and safety standards is critical. Fees or jail time await noncompliance.
  • Communication: Effective communication with clients, team members, and other stakeholders – an obvious one, like business management skills. This is so obvious, but many contractors don’t think to develop their communication skills!

Specific Skills For Class A, B, and C License Holders

Skills for Class A License Holders (General Engineering Contractor)

Class A General Engineering Contractors are involved in large-scale and complex projects that require a deep understanding of engineering principles. Here are the key skills they need:

  • Engineering and Technical Skills: Comprehensive, university-level knowledge of civil engineering, structural design, and understanding of infrastructure development.
  • Industrial Plant Construction Skills: You may need skills around building hazardous or critical facilities like refineries and chemical plants, which demand adherence to strict industry-specific standards focused on public safety.
  • Heavy Equipment Operation: Operating heavy machinery for earthmoving, trenching, and other large-scale construction activities. Yes – Class A licenses can do that!
  • Project Management: Overseeing complex projects, coordinating with various subcontractors, managing budgets, and ensuring compliance with safety standards and building codes​​​​​​.

Skills for Class B License Holders (General Building Contractors)

Class B General Building Contractors work on structures for human occupancy, such as homes and office buildings. Their skill set includes:

  • Carpentry and Framing: Proficiency in constructing the structural framework of buildings, which is essential as Class B holders are allowed to take on framing contracts.
  • Basic Electrical and Plumbing Skills: Understanding the basics of electrical and plumbing work for residential and commercial buildings. You don’t perform the work, but you need to know it.
  • Knowledge of Building Codes and Regulations: Ensuring all construction complies with state and local building codes.
  • Versatility Across Trades: Ability to handle multiple unrelated building trades or crafts, such as painting, flooring, and tiling​.

Skills for Class C License Holders (Specialty Contractors)

Class C Specialty Contractors focus on a specific trade, with over 40 distinct categories. Each category requires specific skills:

  • Trade-Specific Expertise: Deep knowledge in your chosen specialty, e.g., electrical systems for electricians (C-10) or plumbing systems for plumbers (C-36).
  • Certifications and Training: Many Class C licenses require trade-specific certifications or formal apprenticeships.
  • Up-to-Date Industry Knowledge: Staying informed about the latest techniques, materials, and regulations relevant to their trade.

The skills and knowledge you gain as a contractor are what makes you — and all of us contractors — worthwhile.

Don’t look at gaining skills and expertise as a negative thing, as an obstacle to be overcome. Instead, view contractor-related skills as a chance for you to build your expertise and capabilities…which will ultimately allow you to demand higher fees and make more money!

General Contractors and Landscaping in California

All across the state, Californians get to enjoy extremely beautiful weather. To capitalize on this benefit, California homeowners tend to design their homes with a mix of indoor/outdoor spaces that maximize the exposure to pleasant weather.

This trend has been and will continue to be a fixture in the state, which means that general contractors can always expect their work to include exterior construction and at least some landscaping.

What Kind of License Is Needed For Landscaping?

In California, contractors need a C-27 license to provide specialized landscaping services. We won’t go too deeply into the C-27 license here – you can check out our post about the class C-27 Landscaping License to brush up on the type of work it covers and how to secure this license.

If you do not have a C-27 license, but you realize that your construction projects are going to veer into landscaping territory, alarm bells might be going off in your head. You need to complete your work, but you may also not be legally cleared to perform the work yourself. In this case, your only option is to hire licensed landscaping contractors to perform the work for you.

Where does general contractor work overlap with landscaping?

When it comes down to it, when does a general contractor need to hire a C-27 license holder to perform contracting work? When can a general contractor do the work themselves?

Here’s some of the most common interactions Class B and C-27 contractors have on builds.

  • Landscape Integration
    A lot of times, construction projects rely heavily on landscaping to enhance the overall aesthetic of a property — especially residential ones, where most general contractors operate. You’ve heard about how important “curb appeal” is to home buyers, especially nowadays. Creating a seamless integration of an outdoor space with a building’s design helps to sell the idea that a structure is safe and inviting to the onlooker.
  • Site Preparation
    Before landscaping work can begin, sometimes there are site prep requirements that fall under the purview of a general contractor. This work can include grading, clearing, or creating a foundation for outdoor structures.
  • Hardscaping
    Both general contractors and landscapers are involved with hardscaping. This work includes the construction of patios, pathways, retaining walls, or outdoor kitchens. This is a highly collaborative job, but the general contractor typically is responsible for the overall execution.
  • Irrigation and Lighting
    When it comes to irrigation and lighting, C-27 license holders need to do the actual installation and design while general contractors build whatever infrastructure is needed for irrigation systems or outdoor lighting.
  • Project Management
    On larger construction projects, a general contractor may be on the hook for crewing up and overseeing various subcontractors, including landscaping contractors. Understanding the demands of the landscaping labor and setting expectations for all parties involved would fall on the shoulders of the general contractor even though they’re not actually performing the landscaping duties.

Where Are General Contractor and Landscaping Duties Separate?

Despite the overlap in work responsibilities, it is important for general contractors to remain aware of the clear line between their work and the landscaping work. The licenses covering each serve distinct and unique purposes, each with specific responsibilities and requirements.

  • General contractors are primarily responsible for overall construction.
    The building’s structure, plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems all fall to the general contractor. Their Class B license allows them to manage and coordinate various subcontractors, including C-27 license holders. The buck ultimately stops with them.
  • Landscaping contractors specialize in outdoor environments.
    Working with the aesthetics and functionality of plants, trees, irrigation, and outdoor structures all fall to the landscaper. They work under the general contractor’s supervision and perform their duties in accordance with their orders.


General contractors and landscapers have overlapping responsibilities and concerns. Certain issues like noise and nuisance regulations, general construction labor and safety laws, and building codes and permits affect both types of workers in more or less the same ways.

However, there are state and federal regulations that shine a light on the areas where generalized contracting ends and where hyper-specialized landscaping begins.