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Contractor's license and permit are essential

Updated April 6, 2020

When it comes to completing a home improvement project, two documents are essential: the contractor's license and a building permit.

By making sure your contractor holds a license in good standing, and by obtaining a building permit from the City's Building and Safety Division, you can protect your family's safety, gain peace of mind and save money by avoiding costly repairs or scam artists.

Contractor's license

The person you hire must hold a current, valid California Contractor's License for the type of work he or she will complete.

This includes handymen you may find advertised in the Pennysaver, local community newspapers or the phone book, or who walk door-to-door offering to complete minor home projects. While most handymen are legitimate, a few residents have been conned by unlicensed workers who start out with a minor project then recommend additional work that adds up to thousands of dollars.

When hiring a contractor, ask to see his or her pocket license and some additional identification, then write down the name that appears on the license and the 6-digit license number. Next, call the Contractors State License Board at (800) 321-CSLB to verify that the license is valid.

Building permits

A building permit is a license that gives you legal permission to start your home improvement project. In general, a building permit is required by the City for any construction work; additions, renovations; demolitions; work on your electrical, plumbing or heating systems; or installation of fireplaces, swimming pools, decks and fences.

If you have hired a contractor, he or she must obtain the permit for you. If you're handling the project yourself, you should first fill out an application and submit a drawing of your plans to the City's Community Development counter at City Hall. Once your application and plans are approved, you may fill out a building permit application at City Hall's Building and Safety counter.

To protect public safety, all cities have adopted codes with standards for all building, plumbing, electrical and mechanical work. By applying for a building permit, you are registering your project with the City and alerting City building inspectors that they must inspect your project for safety. During your project, you should arrange to have a building inspector visit your home to make sure your project is meeting all codes.

When your project is completed and you've obtained all necessary inspections, you will receive a signed building permit to keep on file as proof that your project meets safety codes. For more information, call the Building and Safety Division at (562) 916-1209, or download a copy of "What You Should Know Before You Hire a Contractor," a free booklet that offers hundreds of tips for choosing a reputable contractor, at

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