San Diego, CA asked in Consumer Law, Contracts and Construction Law for California

Q: Can you please confirm if my interpretation of the BPC code for unlicensed subcontractors is correct:

A licensed contractor sent unlicensed tile installers, (1099 employees, not W-2 employees), to install our kitchen floor. The job was $1,500 plus materials. He claims that since they were "employees," and covered under their workmans comp, they did not need to be licensed. Is this true?

1 Lawyer Answer
James Alan Greer
James Alan Greer
  • Construction Law Lawyer
  • Boulder, CO
  • Licensed in California

A: Homeowner With Question On Licensure: Your thinking about licensed subcontractors is mostly correct (nicely done !). A contractor or subcontractor may perform ANY TYPE OF WORK without a license so long as the whole of the work is LESS THAN $500.00 (the "PennySaver" advertisement type of contractors). If the work involves more than $500.00 and is of the type that requires a license (almost any work of improvement requires a license, certainly tile installation does), then a license is required.

The other part of your question is somewhat confusing where you ask - "the unlicensed contractor must be supervised", because any unlicensed contractor can perform $500.00 worth of work and that $500.00 worth of work does NOT need to be "supervised" (think of the PennySaver handyman who performs $499.00 of work, that person does NOT need to be licensed nor supervised).

Therefore, when you ask about an unlicensed contractor needing to be supervised the answer is: (1) not if the unlicensed is performing less than $500.00, and (2) supervision is moot point over $500.00 because the tradesperson HAS TO BE LICENSED. To make this point even more detailed: a LICENSED subcontractor does not have to be constantly supervised, and "supervision" by a General Contractor refers more to the "project as a whole", rather than individuals being supervised.

JIM GREER is an attorney licensed to practice in CO and CA and has specialized in real estate matters for the past 30 years; nothing herein shall be construed as the offering of legal advice insofar as Mr. Greer is not in an attorney-client capacity with the inquiring party. 303.818.8422

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