When does our hobby shop need a contractor liscense?

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Forum topic by WhiskeyCreek posted 07-19-2017 06:42 PM 9477 views 1 time favorited 76 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View WhiskeyCreek's profile


17 posts in 1755 days

07-19-2017 06:42 PM

Topic tags/keywords: legal court licensing small shop hobbyist contractors license question tip resource

I have had a recent client become a disaster. She canceled half of the work that was put on the contract and refuses to pay for the thousands of dollars worth of copper I bought. The deposit paid for the work I did do, but not the remaining material. She is now taking me to small claims court saying she is required her money back because I do not have a contractors license. I am in school and do not promote myself as a contractor, but do require my clients to sign a contract for the protection of both of us. Most of the big woodworkers in my area do not have a contractors license. I do want to make money through my woodwork, but am not trying to turn it into a big business. Should I be scared? Does she have an argument? Where is the point that a small shop needs to become licensed?
Thanks Guys

-- Whiskey Creek Woodmill & Co.

76 replies so far

View Carloz's profile


1147 posts in 1193 days

#1 posted 07-19-2017 06:57 PM

Countersue her for the material.

View Jack Lewis's profile

Jack Lewis

568 posts in 1680 days

#2 posted 07-19-2017 07:05 PM

Promote yourself as an artisan with whom she contracted for the work. They do not require licenses because there is no government control on “Freedom of Speech” which all artisan can work under. You contracted for labor and materials which she agreed to?

-- "PLUMBER'S BUTT! Get over it, everybody has one"

View AlaskaGuy's profile


5516 posts in 2911 days

#3 posted 07-19-2017 07:07 PM

A lot will depend on you State and City laws/ordinances. If you made a contract with someone your are contracting. You better seek the advice of a layer in you area who know the laws where you live. Where I live I believe I’d be in deep do do.

Is this in writing?

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View Rich's profile


5132 posts in 1191 days

#4 posted 07-19-2017 07:11 PM

You need to check your local regulations. I would imagine CA is fussier than some regarding the requirement for being licensed and insured. It also depends on what you’re doing. I build doors, but I don’t install them. I leave it up to the buyer to have their contractor do the work. Plus, if he screws it up, it’s not my problem.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View WhiskeyCreek's profile


17 posts in 1755 days

#5 posted 07-19-2017 07:12 PM

I have council. It is in writing, but as far as the contract she signed; she is in the wrong. That is only as the contract reads. I don’t understand when it is necessary or do most of us just slide by without being noticed. There are major woodworkers here in California that don’t have any license and never have a problem. I like the artisan idea. It seems the line is if your promoting yourself for profit. Which yes I get paid for my work, but not a lot and my main focus is school. I could never live off of my woodwork. I am just trying to be prepared for a solid answer.

-- Whiskey Creek Woodmill & Co.

View waho6o9's profile


8811 posts in 3179 days

#6 posted 07-19-2017 07:44 PM

What exactly are you doing for this client?

Are you making something for her and she takes it home? Or, are you installing something at her house or office?

View Hammerthumb's profile


2989 posts in 2577 days

#7 posted 07-19-2017 08:04 PM

If someone buys a car from you and you write up a contract, do you need to be a contractor? I don’t think so.
If you do work in someone’s house or commercial jobsite, and write a contract, then you will need a license.

-- Paul, Duvall, WA

View 000's profile


2859 posts in 1501 days

#8 posted 07-19-2017 08:35 PM

I’m no lawyer, but here, if you attach anything to a wall you need to have a contractors license.

Regardless of whether you have the license or not, she contractually agreed to have you do said work for said amount.

I think she could probably get out of the contract,
but I doubt that she could get away without paying you for work performed.
As far as money you have spent on material, not really sure.
A lot will depend on the contract you wrote up that she signed, and how much of it is enforceable by law.

Again, not a lawyer, but I would think if you were contracting without a license that would be more of a problem with the contractors board than the client.
I’m sure your work would have had to be done to contractors laws/standards.

View AlaskaGuy's profile


5516 posts in 2911 days

#9 posted 07-19-2017 08:37 PM

What exactly are you doing for this client?

Are you making something for her and she takes it home? Or, are you installing something at her house or office?

- waho6o9

That would be good information for us to know since your asking our advise.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View DS's profile


3359 posts in 3022 days

#10 posted 07-19-2017 09:37 PM

Contracting w/o a license is a Misdemeanor in Phoenix.

What she did reminds me of how some unscrupulous contractors hire undocumented workers and then call INS at the end of the day to avoid paying for the labor.

If indeed you need a license for the work you did, she could possibly argue that no legal contract existed since such contracting would be illegal under your local statutes.

I’m no lawyer, so this is not legal advice.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View Jon Hobbs's profile

Jon Hobbs

147 posts in 1306 days

#11 posted 07-19-2017 09:38 PM

Typically, a license is an agreement between a tradesman and a government agency. They’re usually intended to ensure the tradesman complies with all applicable laws and building codes. And to provide a measure of protection for consumers/clients.

Typically, clients are not required by law to use licensed tradesmen. There are benefits to hiring licensed workers and there are risks to contracting unlicensed workers (and vice versa). Usually, the law leaves it up to the consumer to decide what benefits and risks they’re willing to take on. Consumers are free to enter into contracts with unlicensed tradesmen and unlicensed tradesmen are free to enter into contracts with consumers.

A contract between a tradesman and a client is a different animal. It lays out what each party is agreeing to provide. The tradesman provides labor and materials to be delivered on a schedule. The client provides money, perhaps also on a schedule.

Unless your contract with the client stipulated that you had to be licensed, then there should be no connection, no relationship between your contact with the client and your licensed/unlicensed status.

However, it can depend on the nature of your work as well. If you’re rewiring her house, or redoing the plumbing, for pay, then the law may require you to have an appropriate license. If you’re planting flowers in her garden, or building her a bookcase, then the law most likely would not require you to be licensed.

As others have stated, things can be different from state to state, county to county, or even city to city, so local legal expertise should be your best source of information.

-- Jon -- Just a Minnesota kid hanging out in Kansas

View jimintx's profile


933 posts in 2186 days

#12 posted 07-19-2017 09:46 PM

I think “thousands of dollars worth of copper” sounds like you are doing a larger job.
Tell us about the scope of work you undertook for her. That will allow readers here to give you better input.

-- Jim, Houston, TX

View Hermit's profile


239 posts in 1927 days

#13 posted 07-19-2017 10:00 PM

California law requires that anything over $500.00 in labor and materials (combined), requires a contractor license. You can’t bid on anything over that amount unless you are licensed by the state of California to perform such work.

-- I'm like the farmer's duck. If it don't rain, I'll walk.

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4250 days

#14 posted 07-19-2017 10:00 PM

You don’t have to be a contractor to build
custom furniture.

I think you should be optimistic about things
because I don’t see how she has a case and
if she actually does drag you into court, she’ll
probably lose and in any case judgments are
difficult to collect.

That said, I would try once more to reason
with her, in writing, and offer to sell her
the material. She backed out for her own
reasons, and now she wants you to take
the loss.

You could also recycle the copper and offer
to pay her what you get for it. It’s unfortunately
a lose-lose scenario. Usually with industrial
materials a substantial restocking fee is
charged when materials are returned. Retail
consumers aren’t familiar with this business

View patcollins's profile


1687 posts in 3467 days

#15 posted 07-19-2017 10:20 PM

Depends entirely on what you are doing, if you are building furniture you don’t need to be a contractor. If you are remodeling her bathroom then you probably do need to be a contractor.

Deposits should always cover the cost of the materials so you don’t get stiffed.

I think you should be worried because even if you are right, she can cost you money with court costs, lawyer fees etc.

showing 1 through 15 of 76 replies

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