The Contractors’ State License Board (“CSLB”) represents the interests of the public in California construction matters. In the field of California construction, the CSLB is all powerful. The agency has the right to suspend the license of any contractor or subcontractor who does not pay on a construction related judgment against it. If you are successful in obtaining a court judgment against a contractor or a subcontractor in a construction-related case, you can utilize the services of the CSLB to suspend the contractors’ license of that contractor or subcontractor until the judgment has been paid. Once the license is suspended, the contractor or subcontractor has no legal right to work as a contractor or subcontractor and can even be arrested for doing so. Details on using the CSLB to suspend the license of a contractor or subcontractor who has a construction-related judgment against it can be accessed at this particular CSLB link: CSLB – Judgment .
On receipt of notice of the construction-related judgment, the CSLB will either suspend the contractors’ license of any contractor or subcontractor who does not pay on the judgment or who does not appeal the judgment to the Court of Appeals or file bankruptcy within 90 days. There also exists an opportunity for the licensed debtor to file a bond with the CSLB. The bond will either have to be renewed annually or the judgment paid, whichever comes first.
The ability of a creditor to suspend the license of a contractor or subcontractor due to a construction-related judgment is invaluable. Any contractor or subcontractor who performs any work at all on a construction project while its license is suspended is subject to the very heavy penalty of “disgorgement” (for more info on disgorgement, see this article: California – Disgorgement).
For details on the law which allows judgment creditors to use the services of the CSLB to suspend the license of the contractor who has a construction-related judgment against it, see California Business and Professions Code section 7071.17 (amended, January 1, 2020), quoted here in full:
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the board shall require, as a condition precedent to accepting an application for licensure, renewal, reinstatement, or to change officers or other personnel of record, that an applicant, previously found to have failed or refused to pay a contractor, subcontractor, consumer, materials supplier, or employee based on an unsatisfied final judgment, file or have on file with the board a bond sufficient to guarantee payment of an amount equal to the unsatisfied final judgment or judgments. The applicant shall have 90 days from the date of notification by the board to file the bond or the application shall become void and the applicant shall reapply for issuance, reinstatement, or reactivation of a license. The board may not issue, reinstate, or reactivate a license until the bond is filed with the board. The bond required by this section is in addition to the contractor’s bond. The bond shall be on file for a minimum of one year, after which the bond may be removed by submitting proof of satisfaction of all debts. The applicant may provide the board with a notarized copy of any accord, reached with any individual holding an unsatisfied final judgment, to satisfy a debt in lieu of filing the bond. The board shall include on the license application for issuance, reinstatement, or reactivation, a statement, to be made under penalty of perjury, as to whether there are any unsatisfied judgments against the applicant on behalf of contractors, subcontractors, consumers, materials suppliers, or the applicant’s employees. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if it is found that the applicant falsified the statement then the license will be retroactively suspended to the date of issuance and the license will stay suspended until the bond, satisfaction of judgment, or notarized copy of any accord applicable under this section is filed.
(b) (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, all licensees shall notify the registrar in writing of any unsatisfied final judgment imposed on the licensee. If the licensee fails to notify the registrar in writing within 90 days, the license shall be automatically suspended on the date that the registrar is informed, or is made aware of the unsatisfied final judgment.
(2) The suspension shall not be removed until proof of satisfaction of the judgment, or in lieu thereof, a notarized copy of an accord is submitted to the registrar.
(3) If the licensee notifies the registrar in writing within 90 days of the imposition of any unsatisfied final judgment, the licensee shall, as a condition to the continual maintenance of the license, file or have on file with the board a bond sufficient to guarantee payment of an amount equal to all unsatisfied judgments applicable under this section.
(4) The licensee has 90 days from date of notification by the board to file the bond or at the end of the 90 days the license shall be automatically suspended. In lieu of filing the bond required by this section, the licensee may provide the board with a notarized copy of any accord reached with any individual holding an unsatisfied final judgment.
(c) By operation of law, failure to maintain the bond or failure to abide by the accord shall result in the automatic suspension of any license to which this section applies.
(d) A license that is suspended for failure to comply with the provisions of this section can only be reinstated when proof of satisfaction of all debts is made, or when a notarized copy of an accord has been filed as set forth under this section.
(e) This section applies only with respect to an unsatisfied final judgment that is substantially related to the construction activities of a licensee licensed under this chapter, or to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the license.
(f) Except as otherwise provided, this section shall not apply to an applicant or licensee when the financial obligation covered by this section has been discharged in a bankruptcy proceeding.
(g) Except as otherwise provided, the bond shall remain in full force in the amount posted until the entire debt is satisfied. If, at the time of renewal, the licensee submits proof of partial satisfaction of the financial obligations covered by this section, the board may authorize the bond to be reduced to the amount of the unsatisfied portion of the outstanding judgment. When the licensee submits proof of satisfaction of all debts, the bond requirement may be removed.
(h) The board shall take the actions required by this section upon notification by any party having knowledge of the outstanding judgment upon a showing of proof of the judgment.
(i) For the purposes of this section, the term “judgment” also includes any final arbitration award where the time to file a petition for a trial de novo or a petition to vacate or correct the arbitration award has expired, and no petition is pending.
(j) (1) If a judgment is entered against a licensee or any personnel of record of a licensee, then a qualifying person or personnel of record of the licensee at the time of the activities on which the judgment is based shall be automatically prohibited from serving as a qualifying individual or other personnel of record on any license until the judgment is satisfied.
(2) The prohibition described in paragraph (1) shall cause the license of any other existing renewable licensed entity with any of the same personnel of record as the judgment debtor licensee or with any of the same judgment debtor personnel to be suspended until the license of the judgment debtor is reinstated, the judgment is satisfied, or until those same personnel of record disassociate themselves from the renewable licensed entity.
(k) For purposes of this section, lawful money or cashier’s check deposited pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) of Section 995.710 of the Code of Civil Procedure, may be submitted in lieu of the bond.
(l) Notwithstanding subdivision (f), the failure of a licensee to notify the registrar of an unsatisfied final judgment in accordance with this section is cause for disciplinary action.
(Amended by Stats. 2019, Ch. 378, Sec. 7. (SB 610) Effective January 1, 2020.)
The lesson for contractors and subcontractors is clear. If you have a construction-related judgment against you, be sure to resolve it as soon as is possible. If you do not, then you may find your license and your ability to earn a living in the construction industry suspended by a powerful government agency. The invitation to construction creditors is also clear. If you have a construction-related judgment against a contractor or subcontractor, you have a very powerful tool at your disposal. The CSLB is that tool. They can take steps which will either get you paid or put the contractor or subcontractor out of business.
Legal sources: California Business and Professions Code section 7071.17.
Article by William L. Porter, Esq. in 2020. Mr. Porter is a principal in The Porter Law Group, Inc. in Sacramento, California. He can be reached by phone at (916) 381-7868. Visit the firm’s website at www.porterlaw.com and www.AppliedLegal.com.