No, our reader is not right.
From time to time, I am asked to explain the application of a law or regulation that may affect people in the boating community. I am however reluctant to dive into this process as it tends to put people to sleep. But this isn’t the first time we’ve been asked if a boat repairer needs a contractor’s license, so we should take a look.
As a preliminary point, our reader is correct in his observation about unlicensed contractors. They are prohibited from taking legal action to collect their fees in accordance with the California Business & Professions Code section. 7031. The question therefore is whether the shipyard is an unlicensed contractor.
Our reader has found some support for his theory in Business & Professions Code sec. 7057, which refers to work done on a “structure” and “movable property”, and a boat could possibly be considered a “structure” and it is certainly a “movable property”. However, laws and regulations cannot be read in a vacuum. They are almost always related in some way or another to other laws or regulations, and this is where we start to lose people as their eyes go glassy.
Let’s take a closer look at dry. 7057. Our reader has misunderstood the reference to “movable property”. The law actually refers to work done on a structure that provides shelter or an enclosure for people, animals or movable property. It does not refer to the work that is actually done on movable property – a slight but significant distinction.
Now let’s take a look at some related laws, starting with Business & Professions Code sec. 7046, which provides for the following restriction: “This chapter [the section of the code which regulates contractors] does not apply to any construction, modification, improvement or repair of personal property. So next we have to look at the definition of “personal property”.
California Civil Code sec. 663 defines “personal property” as anything that is not “real property”. So – you guessed it – we need a definition of “real estate”. Civil Code art. 658 defines “real estate” as “1. Land; 2. That which is fixed to the earth; 3. What is accessory or accessory to the earth; 4. What is immovable by law.
When we look at all these laws together, we see that a boat is personal property because it is not real property. And, because a contractor’s license is not required for someone who works on personal property, people who work on boats in California do not need a California contractor’s license. I applaud our reader’s efforts to research the law for court appearance, but unfortunately he was unable to complete his research. He will either have to defend the case on the merits or pay his court bill.
David Weil is licensed to practice law in the State of California and, as such, some of the information provided in this column may not be applicable in a jurisdiction outside of California. Please also note that no two legal situations are the same and that it is impossible to provide precise legal advice without knowing all the facts of a particular situation. Therefore, the information provided in this column should not be construed as individual legal advice, and readers should not act on the basis of this information without seeking the advice of a lawyer in their home country.
David Weil is General Counsel for Weil & Associates (weilmaritime.com) in Long Beach. He is an Assistant Professor of Admiralty Law at Loyola University Law School, a Fellow of the United States Maritime Law Association, and a former Legal Advisor to the California Yacht Brokers Association. If you have a maritime law question for Weil, you can contact him at 562-438-8149 or email@example.com.
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