The opinion in Kim v. TWA Construction, Inc. (2022 Cal. App. LEXIS 412) issued by the Court of Appeal of California Sixth Appellate District, on May 13, 2022, makes it clear that a properly licensed general contractor cannot bring an action for compensation from an owner for work performed by an unlicensed subcontractor.
California licensing law has long made explicit that an unlicensed contractor cannot bring or maintain any action to collect or recover compensation for work that contractor performed unless they were duly licensed at all times during the performance of that work. This new ruling extends the scope of this restriction to licensed contractors who hired unlicensed subcontractors.
The Underlying Dispute
The case involved a dispute between property owners and their former general contractor and its principal (collectively “TWA”). The property owners hired TWA to construct a home, and during the early stages of the project, TWA hired an unlicensed subcontractor to perform tree trimming services and to remove a large eucalyptus tree. The subcontractor partially removed the eucalyptus tree, but was stopped by a neighbor, and it was discovered that the tree was partly located on the neighbor’s property. The neighbor brought suit against the property owners, and eventually TWA, for the damage. The property owners subsequently filed a cross-complaint against TWA, and TWA in turn filed a cross-complaint against the property owners.