Proof Of License and Licensure

Law Talk

Sam K. Abdulaziz
Attorney at Law

The Legislature likes to put the burden on contractors when dealing with construction matters. In this case the issue of who has the burden of proof, and how the proof needs to be shown was the important aspect.

When a contractor sues to recover compensation for work requiring a contractors license, Business and Professions Code Section 7031 requires the contractor to allege that he or she "was a duly licensed contractor at all time during the performance of the act or contract.". If the issue of licensure is "controverted" (disagreed to) by the defendant, then the contractor must prove licensure by producing a verified certificate from the Contractors' State License Board. That means that the contractor must obtain from the Contractor's Board a document called a "Verified Certificate" as proof. Verbal proof or another document does not appear to be sufficient.

In this case, the contractor did not do that.

Advantec was a developer of a multi unit apartment building and hired Edwin's to furnish plumbing services and materials in accordance with a subcontract agreement. Edwin's worked on the project from February 2004 until November 2004. When Advantec terminated Edwin's from the project prior to its completion. Advantec filed a lawsuit for breach of contract against Edwin's. Edwin's filed an answer to the Complaint. Later, Edwin's filed a cross-complaint alleging among other things, breach of contract by Advantec. Edwin's alleged that "it is a licensed plumbing contractor performing work under the laws of the state of California." Note that it never mentioned a "verified certificate." Advantec filed an answer to the cross-complaint, which denied "each and every allegation" of the cross-complaint. The answer did not include a specific challenge to Edwin's licensure status.

However, since Edwin's did not have verified certificate, he asked the court for a continuance to obtain a verified certificate from the state licensing board. It is alleged that it would have taken two weeks to get that document. The Court failed to continue the case. After some argument, the answer was relatively clear. First non-licensure is an important issue. There were other issues. However, the gist of this argument was that Edwin's could not recover, because he never produced the verified certificate.