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California Mechanics Liens and Contractor Licenses

In a prior post, I went over the Preliminary Notice (aka “20-Day Notice”) as the first step in pursuing a Mechanics Lien in California. In another post, I went over the importance of having a construction contractor’s license in California. If you don’t have such a license, you’re forbidden from suing if a client doesn’t pay you. You’re also vulnerable to being sued for disgorgement of all compensation you earned while unlicensed. In this post, I’m going to address a question posed by a hybrid of these two posts: can you pursue a mechanics lien if you’re a construction contractor working without the required license? The short answer here is no. If you work in the construction trades and you don’t have the license that California requires you to have, you cannot pursue a mechanics lien against a client/customer who doesn’t pay you. The reason is the same statute I went over in my prior post, section 7031 of California’s Business and Professions Code. Section 7031(a) says: “Except as provided in subdivision (e), no person engaged in the business or acting in the capacity of a contractor, may bring or maintain any action, or recover in law or equity in any action, in any court of this state for the collection of compensation for the performance of any act or contract where a license is required by this chapter without alleging that he or she was a duly licensed contractor at all times during the performance of that act or contract regardless of the merits of the cause of action brought by the person, except that this prohibition shall...
Using An Unlicensed Construction Contractor in California

Using An Unlicensed Construction Contractor in California

Many people, at some point in their lives, hire a construction professional — such as an electrician or general contractor — to do some sort of project, such as a home remodel or addition. California has licensing requirements for many professions (e.g. attorneys), including for those employed in the construction trades. For the construction trades, the main licensing agency in California is the Contractors State Licensing Board run by the California Department of Consumer Affairs. California has too many construction-related licenses for me to go over in this post. What I am going to describe in this post, though, is one important statute that applies when a consumer hires a contractor or other construction professional who is unlicensed. That statute is section 7031(b) of California’s Business and Professions Code, which provides: “Except as provided in subdivision (e), a person who utilizes the services of an unlicensed contractor may bring an action in any court of competent jurisdiction in this state to recover all compensation paid to the unlicensed contractor for performance of any act or contract.” In other words, the mere fact that a contractor is unlicensed can allow his/her customer to sue for a full refund of compensation paid. For full context, however, we have to also look at section 7031(e) because that section provides some exceptions: “The judicial doctrine of substantial compliance shall not apply under this section where the person who engaged in the business or acted in the capacity of a contractor has never been a duly licensed contractor in this state. However, notwithstanding subdivision (b) of Section 143, the court may determine that there...

California Child Caregiver’s Authorization (CA Family Code section 6550)

Most people are probably familiar with child custody in the context of a divorce. For example, one parent has the child (or children) these days and these times while the other parent has them these other days and other times. In California, child custody can also be described via another option, namely the Caregiver’s Authorization under section 6550 of the California Family Code. What a Caregiver’s Authorization allows another adult — called the “Caregiver” — to assume certainĀ  authority over a minor child without court involvement. This authority, however, is limited to that related to the child’s schooling and medical care. All that’s required is that the Caregiver sign a declaration stating, among other things, that the minor child is now living with them for whatever reason. The amount of authority the Caregiver gets is dependent on factors such as their relationship to the minor child and the contents of the declaration signed. A sample declaration is provided in section 6552 of the California Family Code. For instance, if you’re the Caregiver and you only fill in sections 1 through 4 on the sample declaration provided in section 6552, section 6550(a) only allows you to “enroll a minor in school and consent to school-related medical care on behalf of the minor.” If you’re interested — as I was when I saw the term — “school-related medical care” is defined in section 6550(h)(3) to be “medical care that is required by state or local governmental authority as a condition for school enrollment, including immunizations, physical examinations, and medical examinations conducted in schools for pupils.” On the other hand, if you’re...

Can A Corporation Represent Itself in California?

Years ago, it was probably fairly difficult for the average person to form a legal entity like a corporation or limited liability company (LLC). Nowadays, however, it’s much easier and can often be done with a few clicks online and a credit card. The result I’ve seen is that entities like corporations and LLCs are much more common now with people who have small business or are otherwise self-employed. Because an entity like a corporation or LLC is its own distinct entity, however, problems can sometimes arise. One of the problems I see by virtue of what I do is when the entity needs to go to court. For example, the entity might need to sue to collect from a customer or client who is refusing to pay their bill. Or, the entity might be sued by someone else for breaching a contract, for instance. If an actual person needed to file a lawsuit or defend against a lawsuit, they can hire a lawyer, but they can also represent themselves in court. If your business is the same as yourself (i.e. a sole proprietorship), you can represent your business also because the two of you are one and the same. However, if you have a legal entity of some kind — for example, a corporation or LLC — that ability goes away. In other words, if you have a legal entity for your business, you can’t represent that entity in California unless you’re also a California-licensed attorney. Phrased another way: legal entities must be represented by attorneys in court in California. In most situations, the cost of hiring an...
California Mechanics Liens – The Preliminary Notice

California Mechanics Liens – The Preliminary Notice

Photo: The photo above is the Stanislaus County Recorder’s Office at 1021 I Street, Modesto, CA 95354. This post is the first in a series that I’ll be writing on California Mechanics Liens. I’ve dealt with mechanics liens quite a bit in the course of the last year or so in dealing with my regular cases and figured it would be good for at least a few posts. If you like this topic, please do leave me a comment below. Instead of addressing mechanics liens based on complexity (e.g. start with simple stuff then build in to more complex questions), I’m going to start this series by addressing the situations that I personally encounter the most often — if you’re someone employed in the construction trades (e.g. carpenter, roofer, etc) and you’ve worked on a project and are now having trouble getting paid, what do you do? When faced with a situation like that, the big thing I want to find out about is the Preliminary Notice and that’s the topic of this post. To keep things simple, I’ll describe briefly what a Preliminary Notice is, but I’ll focus mainly on what a Preliminary Notice in California is required to contain from the perspective of someone employed in the construction trades who should have been paid, but has not been. In future posts, I’ll also go over the intricacies of who has to provide a Preliminary Notice, who has to receive one, how it has to served, etc. What is a Preliminary Notice? A bit of background first: The good news is that California law is very friendly towards...

California Minimum Wage – (CA Labor Code section 1182.12)

A lot of my ideas for blog posts come from topics I encounter while doing research on something else, usually a case I’m working on. In this post, I’m going to go over one of those topics — namely, the statute in California where the amount of the minimum wage is set. Much is said about the minimum age normally (e.g. it hasn’t gone up in X years, etc), particularly now. As I write this, it is mid-May 2020 and many people — at least a few earning minimum wage — are out of work or have been out of work for the last several weeks due to corona virus. When discussing the minimum wage, it’s important to be clear about which one applies. The federal government has one. Many states (e.g. California) have one. Many cities within a state also have one. For example, the city of San Jose, CA has a local ordinance ( San Jose Ordinance # 298929) specifying the minimum wage as $15.25 as of May 14, 2020. Many other cities in the vicinity of San Jose, CA also have higher minimum wages than what the state of California requires. In California, the statute that describes the amount of the minimum wage if California Labor Code section 1182.12. That statute is fairly long so I can’t paste the entire thing here. There’s a lot that goes over a lot of math and other computations that needs to be done. The parts that I’m guessing most of you will be interested in is where the actual values of the minimum wage are specified. That’s in section...