How Would YOU Rule?How Would
YOU Rule?  

Cliff, an unlicensed contractor, entered into a verbal contract with Harry Homeowner for $3000, for which Cliff agreed to remodel a bathroom by ripping out tile, redoing plumbing, retiling, and painting. Harry paid Cliff $1500, and Cliff sues to recover the remaining $1500.

Harry claims the work is shoddily done and that he had to hire another contractor to redo the work, paying another $3500 to the new contractor. Harry files a claim seeking the return of his $1500. Harry knew all along that Cliff was unlicensed. Both Harry and Cliff present documents and photographs.

How would you rule on Cliff’s claim?

a. Rule for Cliff to recover $1500.

b. Rule for Harry on Cliff’s claim.
















Review Answer

The correct answer is b, rule for Harry on Cliff’s claim.

Cliff will receive nothing because the law now states that an unlicensed contractor cannot recover, even for quantum meruit, on contracts that violate the State Contractor’s License Law. The fact that Harry Homeowner knew Cliff was unlicensed is irrelevant. [See Hydrotech Sys., Ltd. v Oasis Waterpark (1991) 52 C3d 988, 997.] Since the remodeling work required a contractor’s license, and the contract’s dollar value exceeds the “handyman’s limit” of $500, Cliff recovers nothing. This is true even if you believe that some of Cliff’s work is worthy.

How would YOU rule? Try









How Would YOU Rule?How Would
YOU Rule?  

How would you rule on Harry’s claim to be refunded the $1500?

a. Rule for Harry to be refunded the $1500.

b. Rule for Cliff and deny Harry’s claim.

c. Determine if deficiencies exist in Cliff’s work and rule accordingly.
















Review Answer

The correct answer is a, refund the $1500 to Harry.

The rule prohibiting recovery to the unlicensed contractor also works in reverse, i.e., if the contractor is unlicensed, he or she is forced to disgorge sums that were already paid by the homeowner. [See B&PC §7031(b).]