An article in the Winter/Spring 2010 edition of the California State License Board’s informational newsletter “California Licensed Contractor” highlighted a new and promising business practice, generally offered as “express services” or “express van services.” The point of the CSLB article was to suggest to General Contractors that they can expand or develop their businesses by providing customers with a “broad palette of construction trade skills” for new projects or repairs. See

ContractorNewsletter2010WinterSpring.pdf .

However, a careful reading of the article will reveal the more subtle point that a General Contractor considering offering a Handyman-type repair or remodel service may need one or more additional licenses in additional classifications.  This concern originates in Sections 7057(a) and (b) of California Business & Professions Code. Under those statutes, general building contractors can accept a prime contract for one speciality — framing or carpentry, for example — and oversee projects and coordinate specific subcontractors for the work. However, specialty or subcontractors must be hired to perform work of a single specialty. For example, if a general contractor operating as an express service is offered a job calling only for electrical or plumbing work, the general contractor must decline the job as more appropriate for a contractor licensed in that particular specialty.

The sole exception is where the job requires more than two types of work. In that case it is appropriate for a California-licensed general building contractor to contract for and oversee the entire project. For example, a general contractor may lawfully perform a complete remodeling job if the work involves plumbing, electrical and carpentry work under one contract.  Under these circumstances, a general building contractor may perform all of the work on a building, or may subcontract parts of the job to contractors with specialty licenses.

Understanding that a typical real-life scenario for express van or handy-man services would likely involve smaller home improvement work like plumbing and electrical repair, it will serve general contractors to be very cautious about accepting such work. Always consider the resources the CSLB expends and can expend in enforcing the prohibitions against unlicensed contracting activity.

Written by Michael L. Claessens, License Advocates Law Group LLP


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