Building Official Information Guide

CALBO/CSLB Guidelines

Get information about how all building department personnel can help identify and resolve problems created by licensed and unlicensed contractors.

Building Department Referral Form

Use this form to notify CSLB about unlicensed activity, contractors working without workers' compensation insurance, and building code violations.

"A" General Engineering Contractor

Can an "A" General Engineering contractor contract to perform the work of a single trade (specialty work) if that specialty work is an integral part of the scope of work for a general engineering contractor? For example, an "A" contractor can build a freeway, which can include pouring concrete and putting up fences. Can the "A" contractor take a contract for concrete work only or to build a fence only?

An "A" contractor can contract to perform all or any part of a project that falls under the "A" classification. California Code of Regulations section 834(a) states "...a general engineering contractor shall operate only within those areas defined in Section 7056 of the [Business and Professions (B&P)] Code." Therefore an "A" contractor could take a contract to build a fence or pour concrete if the work was originally or is currently part of the type of projects listed in B&P Code section 7056 (airports, roads and similar "fixed works").

"B" General Building Contractor

How is a "B" General Building contractor defined in Contractors License Law?

Section 7057(a) broadly defines general building contractor as a contractor whose principal business is in connection with any structure built, being built, or to be built, requiring in its construction the use of at least two unrelated building trades or crafts; however, framing or carpentry projects may be performed without limitation. In some instances, a general building contractor may take a contract for projects involving one trade only if the general contractor holds the appropriate specialty license or subcontracts with an appropriately licensed specialty contractor to perform the work.

Subsections (b) & (c) of B&P Code section 7057 specifically define the situations in which a "B" contractor may take a prime contract or subcontract.

The last part of the first paragraph of B&P Code section 7057 states "...or to do or superintend the whole or any part thereof." What does this mean?

Any projects, or portions thereof, that are identified under Section 7057 as appropriate for the "B" General Building classification may be completed by a "B" contractor through the licensee's own forces, and/or by overseeing (superintending) the work of properly licensed subcontractors.

How does CSLB differentiate between a prime contract and a subcontract?

Any projects, or portions thereof, that are identified under Section 7057 as appropriate for the "B" General Building classification may be completed by a "B" contractor through the licensee's own forces, and/or by overseeing (superintending) the work of properly licensed subcontractors.

What prime contracts or subcontracts can a "B" contractor take?

A "B" contractor can take a prime contract or subcontract for:

  1. Framing or carpentry projects; or
  2. Projects that require at least two unrelated building trades other than framing or carpentry (cannot count framing or carpentry as one of the two unrelated trades); or
  3. Any specialty projects (even if less than two unrelated trades) for which the "B" contractor also holds the required specialty class.

Can a "B" contractor take a "prime contract" for a single specialty trade?

A "B" contractor may take a prime contract for any specialty project (even if less than two trades); if the "B" contractor holds the specialty classification or subcontracts the work to an appropriately licensed specialty contractor.

Can a General Building ("B") contractor take a "subcontract" for work involving a single trade if he plans to sub the work out?

As provided in B&P Code section 7057(b), a "B" contractor cannot take any subcontract (a subcontract is when the "B" does not have a direct contractual relation with the owner of property) for any single trade project (excluding framing or carpentry), unless he/she holds the required specialty license classification. For example, a "B" contractor may take a prime contract (contract directly with the owner of the property) to roof a home, then subcontract the work to a licensed C-39 Roofing contractor. However, a "B" may not take a subcontract to roof a home, then subcontract the work out.

Can a "B" contractor take a contract for fire protection or well drilling work?

Section 7057(c) prohibits a "B" contractor from taking a contract for any project that includes work covered under a C-16 Fire Protection or C-57 Well Drilling classification, unless the "B" contractor either holds the C-16 or C-57 class or subcontracts the work to a properly licensed specialty contractor.

Can a "B" contractor obtain a roofing permit when the work involves replacing facia board, painting eaves, and applying a new roof cover?

If the work is part of an overall general building project, then yes, the "B" contractor could obtain a roofing permit and perform or subcontract the work.

The first paragraph of B&P Code section 7057 refers to "chattels." What are chattels?

Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines chattels as: "an item of tangible movable or immovable property except real estate, freehold, and things (as buildings) connected with real property." Example: A tool or equipment shed is a structure that is designed to house "chattels."

C-27 Landscaping Contractor

(CCR 832.27)

Can a C-27 Landscaping contractor pull permits and perform work involving gas lines and/or electrical circuits?

This is sometimes the case when yard lighting or a pre-manufactured spa or an outdoor barbecue is part of the landscaping contract.

A C-27 contractor may obtain permits and contract for such work, provided the work is part of or incidental to an overall landscaping project.

Can a landscaping contractor contract and pull permits for patio covers or outdoor decks?

A C-27 contractor may contract and pull permits for "non-watertight" patio covers or outdoor decks.

If a patio cover is attached to the house, what classification(s) can build it?

Patios with lattice type covers can be built by either a "B" General Building contractor, a C-5 Framing and Rough Carpentry contractor, or a C-27 Landscaping contractor.

Are there any restrictions on the size, height, or type of deck that a landscaping contractor can contract or pull permits for?

Generally, there are no restrictions on the size, height, or type of deck that a landscaping contractor can contract or pull permits for. However, certain structural work may be precluded. A review will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Can a landscaping contractor build a perimeter wall?

A landscaping contractor can build a perimeter wall only if the perimeter wall is part of a total landscaping project.

Can a landscaping contractor perform a single trade, i.e., concrete, masonry, carpentry?

A landscaping contractor may undertake any single trade contract, provided such work is a part of:

"...landscape systems and facilities...which are designed to aesthetically, architecturally, horticulturally, or functionally improve the grounds within or surrounding a structure or a tract or plot of land..." (Board Rule 832.27)

If an outdoor wall is built simply for its aesthetic value, what classification is required?

A C-27 Landscaping, "B" General Building, or C-5 Framing and Rough Carpentry contractor would be appropriate if carpentry skills are required. A masonry wall would require either a landscaping or C-29 Masonry contractor.

C-36 Plumbing Contractor

(CCR 832.36)

Can a C-36 Plumbing contractor contract and pull permits for the installation of a seepage pit or other components of a septic system?

A C-36 Plumbing contractor may contract and pull permits for installation of a seepage pit or other components of a septic system. An "A" General Engineering or C-42 Sanitation System contractor also may perform this work. All three licenses are appropriate to install or repair all septic systems.

What license classifications are allowed to install or repair building sewers?

"A" General Engineering, C-36 Plumbing, C-42 Sanitation System, and C-34 Pipeline contractors may install and/or repair building sewers. A "B" General Building contractor may perform this work if it falls within the scope of work of a general building contractor as defined in B&P Code section 7057.

What license or certification is appropriate for removal of underground storage tanks?

Removal of underground storage tanks requires the Hazardous Substance Certification in addition to the appropriate license classification.

An "A" General Engineering contractor is appropriate to install and/or remove underground storage tanks for any purpose whatsoever at any location.

A C-36 Plumbing contractor is appropriate to install and/or remove any underground storage tank that provides a service to a building. This includes storage tanks for service stations.

A C-61/D-40 Limited Specialty Service Station Equipment contractor is appropriate to install and/or remove underground fuel storage tanks with a capacity of up to 20,000 gallons at service stations or any other site.

A "B" General Building contractor is appropriate to install and/or remove an underground storage tank only if such work is performed within the meaning of B&P Code section 7057, the definition of a general building contractor.

C-8 Concrete Contractor

(CCR 832.08)

Can a C-8 Concrete contractor contract and pull permits for a lattice patio cover?

No. A C-8 contractor can only work with wood when it is part of a formwork for concrete.

C-53 Swimming Pool Contractor

(CCR 832.53)

Can a C-53 Swimming Pool contractor contract and pull permits for a patio cover?

No. A C-53 contractor cannot contract or pull permits for a patio cover.

Assembly Bill 2697 (regarding swimming pool safety) was signed by the Governor in 1998. Among other things, the bill requires all dry-niche and wet-niche light fixtures operating at more than 15 volts to be protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Who can perform the installation and inspection of this work?

The installation and inspection of electrical work in public swimming pools (required by Senate Bill 873) may be performed by an "A" General Engineering, C-10 Electrical, C-53 Swimming Pool, or a C-61/D-35 Pool & Supply Maintenance contractor.

C-39 Roofing Contractor

(CCR 832.39)

Can a C-39 Roofing contractor pull a re-pitch/re-roof permit including the framing and structural work that is involved?

Generally, structural changes are inappropriate for the C-39 contractor on a re-roof/re-pitch. However, certain projects may require special consideration and a determination will be made on a case-by-case basis.

C-16 Fire Protection

(CCR 832.16)

What is the proper license to install fire protection systems?

B&P Code section 7026.12 is very specific; it states: "The installation of a fire protection system, excluding an electrical alarm system, shall be performed only by a contractor holding a fire protection contractor classification..." as defined in the California Code of Regulations section 832.16 Fire Protection Contractor "...or by an owner-builder of an owner-occupied, single-family dwelling, if not more than two single-family dwellings on the same parcel are constructed within one year...".

C-45 Sign

(CCR 832.45)

What classification of license is appropriate for installation of signs?

If the installation of a sign falls under the definition of contracting (B&P 7026), the following licenses would be appropriate:

  • C-10 Electrical or C-45 Sign would be required for electrical signs;
  • C-45 Sign or C-61/D-42 Limited Specialty Non-Electrical Sign Installation would be required for non-electrical signs.

(Note: Billboards are the most common, and these types of installations require registration with the Department of Transportation.)

Minor Work Exemption

(B&P Code §7048)

Is it true a contractor's license is not required if the work to be performed is under $500?

Yes, B&P Code section 7048 (small operations) provides an exemption from licensure for minor work if the aggregate contract price, including labor, materials, etc. is less than $500. This exemption does not apply if the "minor work" is part of a larger project. Example: A homeowner is having a kitchen remodeled at a total cost of $6,000 and decides to sublet the flooring work, which is only $300. The person doing the flooring still would require licensure because the overall cost of the project was over $500. In addition, jobs cannot be broken down into hourly fees to sidestep the $500 threshold.

Agricultural Exemption

(B&P Code §7049)

What is an agricultural exemption?

B&P Code section 7049 provides an exemption from licensure for any "construction or operation incidental to the construction and repair of irrigation and drainage ditches of regularly constituted irrigation districts, reclamation districts, or to farming, dairying, agriculture, viticulture, horticulture, or stock or poultry raising, or clearing or other work upon the land in rural districts for fire prevention purposes." However, if a licensed contractor performs work included in the agricultural exemption, CSLB has jurisdiction over complaints.

Owner-Builder Exemption

(B&P Code §7044)

Who is considered an owner-builder?

An owner-builder is defined as an individual, or group of individuals, who own the property on which they plan to construct, alter, repair, improve, or remodel a building or structure. Also, a tenant may be considered an owner-builder (case-by-case).

Is an owner-builder required to have a license?

An owner-builder is exempt from licensure, but there are limitations. A license is not required if:

  1. The owner-builder does the work himself or herself or through his or her own employees with wages as their sole compensation and the structure(s) is/are not intended for sale; or
  2. The owner-builder contracts with properly licensed subcontractor(s). (This exemption applies to the construction of a single-family residential structure and limits the number of structures intended or offered for sale to four or fewer in a calendar year.)

The number of structures is unlimited if the owner-builder contracts with a "B" General Building contractor.

Is a homeowner required to obtain a license if he/she wants to improve his/her home?

A homeowner improving his or her principal place of residence is exempt from licensure if all of the following exist:

  1. The work is performed prior to sale;
  2. The homeowner resides in the residence for the 12 months prior to completion of the work; and,
  3. The homeowner has not taken advantage of this exemption on more than two structures during any three-year period.

Are there any trades that property owners are prohibited from performing themselves?

Property owners are prohibited from performing well drilling work covered under the C-57 Well Drilling classification.

Does the owner-builder exemption apply to an individual who builds homes for resale (spec homes) and are there any limitations?

Yes. The owner-builder exemption would apply to an individual who builds homes for resale under any of the following conditions:

  1. Licensed tradesmen are hired to perform all work on the project (provided no more than four structures per calendar year are intended for resale).
  2. A licensed "B" General Builder contractor is hired to perform and/or subcontract the completion of all work on the project. (No restriction on the number of structures completed per calendar year.)
  3. The owner-builder performs the work, all or in part, and resides in the completed structure for one year prior to resale. (This applies to not more than two structures in a three-year period.)

Multiple Classes for a Project

Is it possible that more than one classification could be appropriate for a single project?

Yes, for example, grading and paving a road can be performed by either an "A" General Engineering contractor or a C-12 Earthwork and Paving contractor.

Structural Pest Control Operator

Is a licensed Structural Pest Control Operator required to have a contractors license when making structural repairs caused by wood-destroying pests or organisms?

Structural Pest Control Operators are not required to hold a contractors license when operating within the scope of their license. Only a Branch 3 Licensed Structural Pest Control Operator may contract and pull permits for the repair or replacement of wood damaged by wood-destroying pests or organisms.

(Structural Pest Control Act, Chapter 14, Article 1 Section 7505 and Article 4 Section 8560). The key is replacement of damaged members.

Alarm Company Operator

(B&P Code §7054)

Is an alarm company operator required to be licensed by the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS) and the Contractors State License Board?

Individuals who install, maintain, monitor, sell, alter or service burglar alarm systems are exempt from licensure under Contractors State License Law (B&P Code §7054) provided they are licensed by BSIS. Fire alarm work is subject to Contractors State License Law and requires a C-10 Electrical license.


(B&P Code §7027)

Are licensed contractors required to include their license number(s) in advertisements?

Any time licensed contractors advertise their services, whether on paper, over the air waves or on the Internet, a license number must appear. This includes but is not limited to letterhead, contracts, business cards, any type of directory listing, airwave transmissions, newspaper ads, vehicle lettering, or any form of advertising.

Is it against the law for an unlicensed individual to advertise construction services?

No, as long as the advertisement includes a statement that the individual does not hold a state contractor license (B&P Code §7027.2).

Workers' Compensation Insurance Verification

(Labor Code §3800)

Are local jurisdictions required by state law to verify workers' compensation insurance prior to issuing a permit?

Under Labor Code section 3800, subsection (a), city and county building departments "...shall require that each applicant for the permit sign a declaration under penalty of perjury verifying workers' compensation coverage or exemption from coverage as required by Section 19825 of the Health and Safety Code."

(B&P Code §7125)

Does the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) maintain a record of workers' compensation coverage for licensed contractors?

CSLB is required to maintain a record of workers' compensation insurance coverage or exemption. This information is available on CSLB's website,, or by calling the board's toll-free automated assistance number, 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).

Contractors License Verification

(B&P Code §7031.5)

Are local jurisdictions required by state law to verify a contractor license prior to the issuance of a permit?

Any city or county that requires the issuance of a permit also shall require a written and signed statement from a licensed contractor stating that he or she is licensed, the number of the license, and that it is in full force and effect. Contractors are required by law to provide this information.

Is there a similar requirement for unlicensed individuals who want to pull a permit?

Unlicensed individuals can only pull a permit if they are exempt from licensure under Contractor State License Law. If exempt, the individual must provide a written and signed statement giving the basis for the alleged exemption.

Amount of Down Payment

(B&P Code §7159(d))

Is the amount of a down payment fixed by law?

Yes, any home improvement contract may not exceed $1,000 or ten percent of the contract price (excluding finance charges), whichever is less.

Contractor Fired, New One Hired

What happens when a contractor is fired and a new contractor is hired?

If there are no violations of Contractors State License Law, the Contractors State License Board has no jurisdiction over the firing or hiring of a contractor.

General Complaint Information

How can a homeowner obtain information on how to file a complaint?

Consumers can contact any CSLB office and request a copy of the pamphlet Consumer Guide to Filing Complaints, which explains the complaint process. Information also can be found on CSLB's website,, or by calling the toll-free automated assistance number, 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).

Will the Board investigate if a complainant wishes to remain anonymous?

There is a "confidential" checkbox on the complaint form for individuals who wish to remain anonymous. However, this limits the type of complaints investigated since CSLB cannot mediate a workmanship complaint with a licensed contractor unless the contractor is informed of the details of the job (site, homeowner, complainant issues).

How long does a person have to file a complaint?

(B&P Code §7091(a)(b))

For a licensed contractor, CSLB has jurisdiction for up to four (4) years from the date of an illegal act for patent (obvious) defects, and up to 10 years for latent (structural) defects.

(B&P Code §7028(d))

For unlicensed contractors, CSLB has jurisdiction for up to four (4) years from the date of the illegal act.

How does CSLB define "structural defect?"

(CCR 861.5)

Based on California Code of Regulations (CCR), the three elements below are required for a defect to be considered a "structural" defect as referenced in B&P Code §7091:

  1. A failure or condition that would probably result in a failure in the load bearing portions of a structure,
  2. which portions of the structure are not constructed in compliance with the codes in effect at the time for the location of the structure, provided that,
  3. such failure or condition results in the inability to reasonably use the affected portion of the structure for the purpose for which it was intended.

(Authority cited: Sections 7008, 7091, Business and Professions Code. Reference: Section 7091, Business and Professions Code.)

Are there exceptions to the four- or ten-year warranty periods?

A legal action regarding an alleged breach of an express written warranty must be filed within the duration of that warranty.

What kinds of complaints can be forwarded to CSLB for investigation?

Complaints within the Board's jurisdiction involve failure of a licensed contractor to fulfill the terms of an agreement, including poor workmanship; the requirement of a down payment in excess of the amount allowed by law; job abandonment; failure to pay subcontractors or material suppliers; building code violations; use of false, misleading or deceptive advertising; violations of the Home Improvement Act; and violations of the Swimming Pool Act.

Can suspected fraud be reported to CSLB?

(B&P Code §7116)

Any willful or fraudulent act by a licensee that substantially harms another is cause for disciplinary action.

What is the minimum documentation required by CSLB to pursue a complaint against a licensed contractor's work?

There is no minimum documentation required to pursue a complaint. However, the contractor must be identifiable and there must be an alleged violation of Contractors State License Law. All complaints are reviewed to determine whether they are within the jurisdiction of the Contractors State License Board.

How Building Officials File Complaints with the Contractors State License Board

Does the CSLB accept complaints filed by building officials?

Yes, a collaborative procedure was established in 1992 for CSLB to handle complaints submitted by building officials.

Is there a special complaint form to be used by building officials?

The standard complaint form can be used. However, the form should be copied onto yellow or green paper so that CSLB staff may quickly identify complaints filed by building officials.

As a building official, how do I fill out the CSLB complaint form?

You need only fill out the front page of the complaint form. List the building department as the complainant and name a contact person. The form must contain the name of the contractor, the project address, and the items of complaint.

Are other documents helpful?

Yes. Submitting the following documents with the complaint may shorten the investigation time considerably:

  • Certified copies of permits and applications for permits
  • Certified copies of correction notices
  • Certified copies of letters of citation to respondent

Will I have to appear as a witness?

In rare occasions, a building official may need to testify during the hearing process.

What happens to the complaint when it reaches CSLB?

CSLB Intake and Mediation Center supervisors have been instructed to review complaints from building officials upon receipt and assign the appropriate priority based on the seriousness of the complaint. As with all complaints, those involving serious health and safety matters are given highest priority.

Who should I contact if I have questions about a complaint?

Contact the CSLB office nearest you for general complaint information.

How To Contact CSLB

Street Address 9821 Business Park Drive, Sacramento, CA 95827-1703
Mailing Address P.O. Box 26000, Sacramento, CA 95826-0026
Internet Address
Toll-Free Automated Assistance (800) 321-CSLB (2752)
Disaster Hotline (800) 962-1125
Executive Fax (916) 364-0130


Licensing & Classification Information
Licensing & Classification Licensing Fax (916) 366-9130
Information Licensing Email Currently Unavailable


Northern California
General Complaint Information (800) 321-2752
For complaints on work performed in California counties NOT mentioned below, mail complaint forms to P.O. Box 269116, Sacramento, CA 95826-9116
Legal Action Disclosure (916) 255-4041
Report Unlicensed Activity (SWIFT)* (916) 255-2924
Northern SWIFT Fax (916) 369-7265


Southern California
General Complaint Information (800) 321-2752
For complaints on work performed in Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties, mail complaint forms to: 12501 East Imperial Highway, Suite 620, Norwalk, California 90650
Legal Action Disclosure (562) 345-7656
Report Unlicensed Activity (SWIFT)* (562) 466-6017
Southern SWIFT Fax (562) 466-6065

*Through its Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT), CSLB works to curb the underground economy, and elimintate unlicensed contracting in California.