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Senator Mike McGuire. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Contractors Facing New Licenses, Restrictions, and Punishments Under New Bill

SB 1189 quickly moves through unchallenged in Senate

By Evan Symon, May 30, 2020 8:29 am

Building contractors in California would face new licenses, greater contracting restrictions, and the addition of natural disaster destruction repair as home improvement under a new bill in the Senate.

Under Senate Bill 1189, written by Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), a new classification of contracting, to be known as ‘residential remodeling contracting’, would be created. Residential remodeling contractors  would be prohibited from performing certain trades and skill, such as installing fire prevention materials or structures, unless a properly licensed contractor performed the services. Residential remodeling contractors would also be prohibited from changing or working on load bearing portions, electrical systems, and plumbing systems.

SB 1189 would also tie-in property destruction to contracting and subcontracting, with the definition of ‘home improvement’ building or rebuilding on residential property expanding include damaged or destroyed property caused by natural disasters that had state of emergencies called on them.

The bill would essentially make contractors and subcontractors, especially those without proper licenses, liable for damages that their contracting was used for to specifically prevent. Punishments would include up to $10,000 in fines and up to three years in jail for violations.

Senator McGuire specifically wrote the bill in response to contractors in his district rebuilding and repairing homes after fires and wildfires and doing ‘shoddy’ work. In some cases, homes damaged by fires were re-damaged again despite contractors supposedly installing fireproofing materials. The Senator also noted the financial, physical, and mental anguish these contractors had caused.

“I want to be clear – the majority of contractors in Sonoma County, who are advancing with rebuilds, are doing right by their customers,” said Senator McGuire in a statement last week. “But there are a few rogue contractors – representing several dozen individual homeowners – who charged fire survivors full price for rebuilds that included shoddy work and countless mistakes. Some jobs weren’t even completed, some weren’t started. These contractors should have never been in the business and their egregious actions have added to the trauma so many have been coping with. By creating a new contract licensing classification specific to residential rebuilding, this bill ensures that contractors who accept these projects after a natural disaster can be held accountable for their actions.”

“Losing a home is traumatic enough,” clarified Senator MGuire this week.”Ending up with an unexperienced contractor — or worse, a contractor who intentionally takes a job knowing that they can’t finish it — has made the rebuilding process, and the healing process, incredibly painful for some fire survivors.”

House fire and wildfire survivors who had experienced poor quality rebuilding work expressed approval towards SB 1189.

“We lost our house in a wildfire three years ago,” said Patrick Sands during an interview with the Globe. “Then we lost our house again last year after we had an inspector come through and point out all the mistakes they made. You know, the roof was leaking and things were starting to fall apart about a year in. But there were so many little things, like the PVC piping he put in already cracking in the walls.”

“I can’t put into words my frustration at losing a home only for this one to fail.”

“I don’t follow state politics at all and the only McGuire I ever heard of is Mark McGwire. But I’ll be watching this [bill] intently. No one should have a bad contractor, especially people like me and my family who had to move out again due to damages.”

“Seeing your home up in flames can break down anyone.”

While some contracting groups have expressed ‘disappointment’ with the bill, SB 1189 has enjoyed widespread bipartisan support and even the backing of other contracting groups such as the California’s Contractors Licensing Board.

The bill passed unanimously 9-0 last week in the Senate Business, Professions, and Economic Development Committee and is widely expected to get a similar result in the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on June 1st.

If passed by both houses and the Governor, SB 1189 would be made law at the beginning of next year.

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2 thoughts on “Contractors Facing New Licenses, Restrictions, and Punishments Under New Bill

  1. It’s not clear to me how another license requirement is going to solve shoddy construction. But the real question it seems is, where were the county building inspectors during the rebuild process? Shouldn’t they have caught these shoddy construction practices? This bill seems more of an attempt to protect government failures and push the blame on the private sector. I’m not justifying or excusing shoddy construction. If that happened, the contractors ought to be able to be sued for damages. I just don’t see how this bill helps. It’s just another layer government red tape.

    1. I agree 100% to Steve T’s comment. If the govt. wants to get involved, they should be putting on seminars and education homeowners on safe practices in hiring contractors and requiring they have the recommended insurance and references to perform such work.

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