In response to the growing number of residential remodeling and home improvement work in California, much of it as a result of wildfires over the last three years, SB 1189 would add a Residential Remodeling Contractor license to the Category B General Contractor license designation. The bill is being sponsored by Senator Mike McGuire in concert with the Contractors State License Board (CSLB).
Under current law, a “General Building Contractor” (or “B”) is defined as a contractor whose principal contracting business is in connection with any structure built or being built for the support, shelter, and enclosure of persons, animals, chattels, or movable property of any kind and requiring in that construction the use of at least two unrelated building trades or crafts. (BPC § 7057(a). In addition, the definition of “home improvement” means the repairing, remodeling, altering, converting, or modernizing of, or adding to, a residential property which includes the construction, erection, replacement, or improvement of driveways, swimming pools, terraces, patios, awnings, storm shelters, basements and other improvements of the house. (BPC § 7151)
SB 1189 proposes to add a Residential Remodeling Contractor license to the classifications and defines a “residential remodeling contractor” (RRC) as a contractor whose principal contracting business is in connection with any project to make improvements to, or in, an existing residential wood-frame structure, and the project requires the use of at least three unrelated building trades or crafts for a single contract. The bill would authorize a RRC to take a prime contract for specified trades or crafts, including, but not limited to drywall, flooring, painting, and the installing, repairing, or replacing of various identified electrical, plumbing, and mechanical fixtures, provided that the RRC shall not contract to install, replace, substantially alter, or extend such systems unless the RRC holds the appropriate license classification or subcontracts with an appropriately licensed contractor.
According to the Contractors State License Board, SB 1189 would not change the current requirements for obtaining a contractor’s license (such as meeting the years of experience requirements, be 18 years of age, etc.), but by adding a new license classification, this bill would define the type of experience required to meet the new RRC classification. Instead of needing the rough carpentry and framing experience which is currently required for the General B, an applicant could apply for the RRC license, without having a carpentry and framing experience, which would allow the contractor to take a contract for improvement to, on, or in an existing residential wood-frame structure involving three or more unrelated trades. This could potentially expand the pool of applicants who would be able to qualify for the new residential contracting license, as many interested persons likely do not have the rough carpentry and framing background currently required for the General B license. This bill clarifies that if the RRC takes on a project for which rough carpentry or framing is necessary, such as adding additional square footage to a project, they would need to have the General B license.
The CSLB has held multiple licensing workshops and found that approximately 80-85% of the attendees would benefit from a new licensure category, as many perform remodeling work but lack the rough carpentry and framing experience necessary to obtain the General B license.
CSLB also points out several other states have a similar license structure as this bill proposes. Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah have some type of license structure that would allow for some form of a remodeling contractor license in addition to a General B-type license, which has higher experience requirements and can take on more extensive construction-related projects.
In addition to establishing a new license for residential remodeling projects, this bill also revises the definition of “home improvement” to include the reconstruction, restoration, or rebuilding of residential property that is damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster for which a state of emergency was declared. The current definition of “home improvement” means the repairing, remodeling, altering, converting, or modernizing of, or adding to, residential property and shall include, but not be limited to, the construction, erection, replacement, or improvement of driveways, swimming pools, including spas and hot tubs, terraces, patios, awnings, storm windows, landscaping, fences, porches, garages, fallout shelters, basements, and other improvements of the structures or land which is adjacent to a dwelling house. “Home improvement” shall also mean the installation of home improvement goods or the furnishing of home improvement services. However, currently, it does not include reconstruction, restoration, or rebuilding after a disaster as this bill would prescribe.
Rebuilding a home devastated by a natural disaster is one rationale for changing the definition of “home improvement.”
According to media reports from areas impacted by wildfires, contractors were hired for rebuilds or other construction-related work on fire destroyed homes yet did not actually complete the work. Adding the disaster language to the definition of home improvement will ensure these projects have the same contracting protections afforded other legitimate improvement jobs, including contract cancellation rights, down payment security, or the prohibition on payment in advance of completed work and undelivered materials.
Although this new general license would allow a Residential Remodeling Contractor to remodel or repair in-ground swimming pools and spas, it would not allow the RRC to do so unless he or she obtained specialty licenses necessary to perform the work or subcontracted with individuals or construction companies that do have the proper licensing categories to perform the construction, electrical, plumbing, and concrete work necessary to remodel a swimming pool or spa.
SB 1159 is currently still pending in the Legislature but is expected to be on the Governor’s desk for signature in September.