The promotion of a contractors business should be a top priority for all California construction professionals looking to grow their enterprise. However, to maintain compliance with Contractors State License Board regulations, contractors in California should become familiar with acceptable advertising guidelines prior to engaging in any marketing activities. Otherwise, contractors could find themselves in the doghouse with the CSLB including possible criminal charges or worse, an infamous spot on the CSLB Most Wanted List. Below is an outline of advertising guidelines as provided by the CSLB in its advertising bulletin titled “The Legal Rights and Wrongs.” While the bulletin provides a general outline of practices considered acceptable and unacceptable, contractors should contact the state license board regarding specific marketing questions as they may arise. Also, these guidelines are subject to change without notice, so keep an eye out for CSLB press releases and notifications as they are posted on the License Board website in real time.
Never Promote Yourself or Business as Being Bonded
As a provider of California Contractors License Bonds, we would like to emphasize that contractors should never advertise that they are bonded as this is strictly prohibited by the CSLB. The reason is relatively straight forward as state officials seek to protect consumers who may mistakenly assume that the presence of a contractors bond provides a level of protection greater than may actually exist.
Contractors Must Include Their License Number in All Advertisements
CSLB advertising guidelines require a contractor’s license number to be referenced in all forms of marketing including business cards, newspapers, radio, TV and online publications. Advertising mediums may also include less obvious formats including contract proposals, clothing or promotional items and even lettering on the side of a company vehicle. To be on the safe side, contractors should include their license number on any business materials that mention themselves or their construction business.
Contractors that properly promote themselves as being licensed not only distance themselves from potential compliance violations, but also establish themselves as legitimate contractors as compared to those that operate in an illegal manner. Contractors that are caught operating outside of acceptable advertising guidelines face a first time offense fine of as much as $1,000. (Business and Professions code 7030.5)
Do Not Advertise for Work you’re Not Licensed to Perform
Contractors should be very careful about advertising for work which they may not be licensed to perform. For example, a contractor with a C-39 roofer’s license cannot advertise for masonry work unless the contractor also has the proper licensing for that classification. With this in mind, class “A” general engineering contractors or class “B” general building contractors are permitted to advertise as general contractors. Also, it goes without saying that unlicensed contractors should not be doing any advertising for construction work that requires a license as this is perhaps the easiest way to invite criminal prosecution. (Business and Professions code 7027.1)
Contractors Business Vehicles Must Be Properly Identified
All contractors with commercially registered vehicles must clearly display their business name and license number on all vehicles. In addition, C-36, C-45 and C-57 contractors have additional requirements in regards to properly identifying vehicles. All contractors with business vehicles should read section Business and Professions code 7029.6 for specific advertising guidelines.
Additional advertising guidelines apply that pertain specifically to unlicensed contractors, home improvement contractors, as well as those engaged in asbestos removal. For a comprehensive guide to CSLB advertising guidelines, please download and review the official CSLB Advertising Guidelines For California Contractors pamphlet.
By Jeremy Schaedler