Architects & Engineers – Are you committing a Class 2 misdemeanor without realizing it? (Tue Tip; law note)

by Melissa Dewey Brumback
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handcuffsBuried within the general contractor provisions of the North Carolina General Statutes is a little-known provision that can get architects and engineers in hot water.  If you recommend to a project owner anyone who is not properly licensed under the general contractor statute, you have committed a Class 2 misdemeanor.  Really!  Here is the pertinent language:

§ 87-13. Unauthorized practice of contracting; impersonating contractor; false certificate; giving false evidence to Board; penalties

Any person, firm, or corporation not being duly authorized who shall contract for or bid upon the construction of any of the projects or works enumerated in G.S. 87-1, without having first complied with the provisions hereof, or who shall attempt to practice general contracting in the State, except as provided for in this Article, and any person, firm, or corporation presenting or attempting to file as his own the licensed certificate of another or who shall give false or forged evidence of any kind to the Board or to any member thereof in maintaining a certificate of license or who falsely shall impersonate another or who shall use an expired or revoked certificate of license, and any architect or engineer who recommends to any project owner the award of a contract to anyone not properly licensed under this Article, shall be deemed guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor. And the Board may, in its discretion, use its funds to defray the expense, legal or otherwise, in the prosecution of any violations of this Article.

However, there is also some relief in the same statute, which provides that:

No architect or engineer shall be guilty of a violation of this section if his recommendation to award a contract is made in reliance upon current written information received by him from the appropriate Contractor Licensing Board of this State which information erroneously indicates that the contractor being recommended for contract award is properly licensed.

Has this issue ever really been litigated?  Yes, it has.  While I cannot point to reported cases, I will tell you that I have had this become an issue – more than once – in my practice.  Each time, the design professional knew that the entity involved had been a licensed general contractor, but the entity had lost its contractor’s license before the particular project at issue. 

Take-away:  Even if the general contractor is the largest and most well-known in the state, always, always, always check with the Licensing Board to confirm that a general contractor is in good standing before making any recommendation to a project owner.  Just in case.  Since Consider it two minutes well spent.

Questions, comments, experiences with this statute?  Share in the comments section of the blog.

Photo (c) Riki Maltese via CC

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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