Hiring party’s knowledge of landscaper’s unlicensed contractor status does not bar reimbursement claim

(Unlicensed Contractors)  Hiring party’s knowledge of landscaper’s unlicensed contractor status does not bar reimbursement claim.

Esaul Alatriste v. Cesar’s Exterior Designs, Inc.,  2010 DJDAR  3763  (April 6, 2010). 

Plaintiff paid defendant a sum of money for a landscaping design at plaintiff’s home.  Plaintiff then sued the defendant landscape design company seeking reimbursement for the sums paid under the statute which allows a party to recover “all compensation paid to [an] unlicensed contractor.”  Business and Professions Code Section 7031 (sub b).  The plaintiff successfully moved for summary adjudication of this claim.  After the plaintiff dismissed his remaining claims the court entered judgement in the plaintiff’s favor for the sum paid. 

The defendant conceded that it was unlicensed when it began the landscape work, but contended that the court erred in granting the summary adjudication because it presented facts supporting its defenses and/or offsets to plaintiff’s section 7031 (sub b) claim.  The appeals court found this contention to be without merit.  The facts did not support a viable defense or offset to the reimbursement claim under section 7031 (sub b).  Specifically, the appeals court held that 1) plaintiff’s prior knowledge of the defendant’s unlicensed status did not bar recovery under section 7031 (sub b) reimbursement claim, 2)  plaintiff was entitled to recover the total amount paid even though the defendant was licensed during a portion of the work and 3)  plaintiff was entitled to recover payments from materials retained by him in addition to payments for labor.

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