You hired a contractor to build a new addition to your home and construction is going along nicely. It looks like you’re going to have the new addition in time for summer. Not only are you getting more living space inside, but you’re also going to have a balcony. You’re looking forward to relaxing on the deck, firing up the grill and looking out onto the canyon. On clear days, you’ll even be able to watch the sun set over the Pacific ocean. Man, does it get any better?
Within a few weeks of signing the contract you get a notice that you have a certified letter waiting to be picked up at the post office. You recognize the sender’s address. It’s your homeowner’s association, (HOA) and you get that plummeting down the rollercoaster feeling in your stomach.
When you get the letter you cannot believe what you are reading. It says that you did not have approval to build the new addition, that construction must immediately stop, that you will be subjected to fines and attorney’s fees and costs and to top it off, given the dimensions and location of your proposed addition and balcony, you would not have received, nor will you receive approval from the architectural review committe of the HOA.
You review the contract and you see that the contractor had agreed to be responsible, just as you thought, to get approval of the plans from your HOA architectural review committee. In fact the contractor told you the plans had been approved.
You’ve paid the contractor $7,000.00 so far and you make a call to another contractor who comes out to give you a bid on what it would cost to remove the half built structure and get a bid for $3,000.00 to tear it all down.
A couple of months later you’re listening to the small claims judge decide in your favor. Now what? How can you collect from the contractor? One way is to get a helping hand from the heaviest hand around – the Contractor’s State License Board (CSLB).
Once you get the judgment and send the CSLB documentation of the judgment, the CSLB has authority to and will let the contractor know that the contractor’s license will be suspended if the judgment is not satisfied.
If payment remains outstanding 90 days after the contractor is notified to pay the judgment, the CSLB will suspend the contractor’s license immediately. Once a contractor’s license is suspended it will remain suspended until the judgment is paid. For a contractor dependent on continuing business this should be a great motivation to pay any judgment.
Also, by initially including the bonding company in the lawsuit, your chances of payment are increased but if there are competing claims, your claim is in danger of not being paid in full as the bond itself might not be sufficient.
Lesson to be learned is that not only must you review and understand the rights and obligations of you and the contrctor as stated in the contract before signing it, but you must also confirm in writing before any construction begins and before you pay anything but a downpayment, that all permits and approvals are obtined by any public entity or HOA.
You do not want to have to rely on the force of the CSLB to suspend a license. You want to be sitting on your balcony enjoying the view.