Sunday, December 2, 2007

Five Ways to Your Advertising Can Get You Into Trouble

What is advertising? For many contractors, their advertising plan includes classified listings, websites, television and radio. But did you know that virtually anything with your name on it is considered “advertising” by the CSLB? Things like business cards, contract proposals, vehicle lettering, signage, brochure, flyers, and any directory or listing that implies that you are a contractor looking for the kind of work that requires a contractor’s license. Make sure your advertising avoids these common pitfalls.

Inadequate Vehicle Signage
Plumbing, electrical sign, and well-drilling contractors must display their business name, permanent business address and license number on both sides of every business vehicle in letters at least 1 1/2 inches high.

All other contractors must display their business names and contractor’s license numbers on every one of their commercially registered vehicles. The name and number must be in a clearly visible location in letters at least 3/4 inch high and wide.

Contractors engaged in interstate contracting can ask the CSLB Registrar for an exemption from the requirement to put their California contractor’s license number on trucks and vehicles

Advertising for Work You’re Not Licensed to Do
Business & Professions Code section 7027.1 prohibits licensed contractors from advertising for construction work outside of areas for which they are licensed. For example, a masonry contractor who advertises to do electrical work can be charged with a misdemeanor—unless he or she also has a C-10 license. (An exception to this provision permits licensed “A” and “B” contractors to advertise as general contractors.)

Advertising That You Are “Bonded”
Contractors are forbidden by law from putting in their “advertising, soliciting or other presentments to the public,” the fact that they are bonded. Such a statement could lead the public to believe there is a higher level of protection provided to them by the bonding procedure than might be the case. This provision is designed to prevent such misunderstandings.

Advertising as an “Owner-Builder”
Business & Professions Code section 7027 also prevents owner-builders and others exempted from the licensing provisions of the Contractors License Law from advertising illegally. If they employ any sign, card, classified ad, directory or other device to specify or imply to the public that they are contractors or are looking to do “construction or work of improvement,” such advertising will make them subject to the same legal provisions as licensed contractors.

Advertising When You Don’t Hold a Valid Contractor’s License
Like legitimate contractors, unlicensed operators sometimes use advertising to find new clients. Ads without license numbers or with numbers that are not issued by the CSLB are frequently used by the Board to identify the targets of stings, because these ads are usually placed by unlicensed individuals requesting or looking for the kind of work that requires a contractor’s license.

The CSLB and other enforcement agencies use two sections of the law (Business & Professions Code sections 7027.1 and 7099.10) to take legal action against unlicensed contractors and, on occasion, against licensed contractors advertising illegally.

For more information, download the CSLB’s Advertising Guidelines for Contractors.

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