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Tips to Homeowners

March 16, 1986|Armand L. Fontaine

Question: What is a home-improvement contractor? Is there such a thing as a licensed home-improvement contractor?

Answer: No, there is no such thing as a licensed home-improvement contractor, but there should be. Home improvement is very broadly defined by the state contractors license law as the repairing, remodeling, altering, conversion, modernizing, landscaping, or adding to, including pools, of homes.

In essence, anything done to an existing residential dwelling is probably classified as home improvement. Service and repair contractors such as electricians and plumbers would be defined as home-improvement contractors.

Certain laws, though, are not applicable. In the case of the roofing contractor who expects to be paid after the completion of the project, most home improvement laws do not apply because no formal written home-improvement contract has been executed.

The State Contractors License Board estimates that more than one-third of the complaints received involve home improvement.

In many instances, the complaints involve unlicensed contractors who have no business doing the work. The individual who efficiently remodels a house or adds a room is blemished by the catch-all phrase "home improvement" as defined by California law.

In order to completely remodel some portion of a residence, it is usually necessary to hire a contractor who has a general B-license, since that individual may employ sub-contractors such as plumbers, roofers and painters; whereas specialty contractors may not do so unless the needed work is incidental to the job that they are performing.

In any case, the law in this matter is quite fuzzy, and attempts to narrow the definition have been frustrated by various vested interests.

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