In California, anyone who contracts to perform work that is valued at $500 or more for labor and materials must hold a current, valid license from the Contractors State License Board (hereinafter “CSLB”) and must carry a Contractor’s License Bond. Surety bonds are commonly used for this purpose, but cash or certificates of deposit may also be posted. All Contractor License Bonds must be implemented by an authorized surety company, in a manner up to the required standard of the CSLB and suitable to the State of California. Currently the CSLB requires that contractor’s bonds be in the sum of twelve thousand five hundred dollars ($12,500). At their discretion, the Board may require an applicant to carry a higher bond amount or separate bonds for contractors who have been disciplined, and the amounts of these bonds vary. The bond amount is not per job. It is the amount available for all jobs a contractor takes on during the life of the bond.
A surety bond is a contract in which a surety company promises the State of California that the contractor will comply with the Contractors’ State License Law. Generally speaking, a licensed contractor is obligated not to commit any violations of the Contractors’ State License Law. The law describes and identifies specific violations that the bond will cover and violations can result in disciplinary action against the licensed contractor. California Business and Professions Code § 7071.15 provides that failure to maintain a sufficient bond can result in a minimum penalty of suspension ranging from 60 days up to 1 year probation, and a maximum penalty of revocation. Additionally, if warranted the CSLB can impose an actual suspension of the license for 5 days or more, require contractors to retake the CSLB law and business examination if not taken within the past 5 years, impose educational course requirements, or require payment of CSLB investigation and enforcements costs.
If the contractor does not comply with the conditions of the bond, a consumer, supplier or an employee can file a claim against the bond. California Business and Professions Code § 7071.5 provides that the contractor’s bond shall be for the benefit of the following:
(a) A homeowner contracting for home improvement upon the homeowner’s personal family residence damaged as a result of a violation of this chapter by the licensee.
(b) A property owner contracting for the construction of a single-family dwelling who is damaged as a result of a violation of this chapter by the licensee. That property owner shall only recover under this subdivision if the single-family dwelling is not intended for sale or offered for sale at the time the damages were incurred.
(c) A person damaged as a result of a willful and deliberate violation of this chapter by the licensee, or by the fraud of the licensee in the execution or performance of a construction contract.
(d) An employee of the licensee damaged by the licensee’s failure to pay wages.
(e) A person or entity, including an express trust fund described in Section 3111 of the Civil Code, to whom a portion of the compensation of an employee of a licensee is paid by agreement with that employee or the collective bargaining agent of that employee, damaged as the result of the licensee’s failure to pay fringe benefits for its employees, including, but not limited to, employer payments described in Section 1773.1 of the Labor Code and regulations thereunder (without regard to whether the work was performed on a private or public work). Damage to an express trust fund is limited to actual employer payments required to be made on behalf of employees of the licensee, as part of the overall compensation of those employees, which the licensee fails to pay.
General requirements for bonds include the following:
•Bonds are NOT transferable – do not attempt to transfer a bond from
one license to another or from one qualifying individual to another;
•The business name and license number on the bond must correspond EXACTLY to the information in the records of the CSLB
•The license number on the bond of a qualifying individual must match that of the firm for whom the individual is to serve as the qualifying individual;
•Contractors bonds must be in the correct amount of $12,500;
•A bond of a qualifying individual must be in the correct amount of $12,500;
•The bond must have the signature of the attorney-in-fact ; and
•Bonds must be filed with the CSLB within 90 days of the effective date of the bond.
To avoid problems with the bonds filed for your license and to maintain your bonds, the following guidelines are helpful:
•Keep your required bonds, cash deposits, or bond exemptions current at all times;
•Renew your bonds promptly. Make sure that the effective date of a new bond is the same as the cancellation date of the old bond and allow for processing time;
•Only one bond is effective at any time. A second bond filed for the same period will cancel out the first bond;
•CSLB does not return any bond that has been accepted or processed for an active license; and
•Keep accurate records on your agent, surety company, bond numbers, effective dates, and terms of the bonds.
If a contractor receives notice from their surety company that a claim has been filed against his/her bond, the contractor should immediately contact the surety company to respond to the claim and explain his/her position. The contractor should also submit all documentation relevant to the claim. If a complaint is filed with the CSLB, the contractor should also respond immediately and provide the CSLB all of the requested information and documentation throughout the course of the investigation. Complaints filed with the CSLB and with surety companies are taken very seriously and a contractor’s cooperation is critical to a successful resolution.
1. See California Business and Professions Code § 7071.6.
2. The term attorney-in-fact is commonly used in the United States, to make a distinction from the term Attorney at law. An attorney-at-law in the United States is a lawyer—someone licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. As an agent, an attorney-in-fact is a fiduciary for the principal, so the law requires an attorney-in-fact to be completely honest with and loyal to the principal in their dealings with each other. See Wikipedia @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_of_attorney .