California Homeowners: The Risk of Hiring Unlicensed Contractors

If you own a home, then you probably know that maintenance and repairs are an ongoing issue. The older the home, the more headaches you’re bound to face. These home repairs can sometimes require knowledge, skill, or time that you just don’t have. Before you hire a handyman or contractor be aware that you can be held liable for injuries suffered on the job. In California, even if you had the foresight to acquire workers’ compensation insurance, hiring an unlicensed contractor for any work that will cost more than $500 (both labor and materials) exposes you to potential liability.

See, Mendoza v. Brodeur (2006) 142 Cal.App.4th 72**.

* This is true even if you (1) had no idea about the licensing requirement OR (2) didn’t check to see whether the contractor was licensed.

Best Practices when Hiring Contractors

(1) Check the status of a contractor’s license by visiting the California Contractors State License Board (“CSLB”) at their website:, or calling the CLSB at (800) 321-2752.

(2) Ask for proof of current insurance, and make sure there is coverage for the type and scope of work to be performed.

(3) Put everything in writing. Make sure there is a written contract with all pertinent terms, including but not limited to the following:

  • Confirmation of “Independent Contractor Relationship”
  • Release of Liability, Hold Harmless, and Indemnity Provisions
  • Designating Responsibilities for Licensing and Insurance

(4) Check your homeowner’s insurance policy. Make sure that:

  • Coverage for liability and workers compensation
  • Coverage limits are sufficient
  • Familiarize yourself with information available at the California Contractors State License Board. The CSLB provides guides and pamphlet that are free to download from their website.
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