Judge Michelle Hotten’s well-reasoned but unpublished opinion in the case of Glen Valley Builders v. Whang may finally offer hope for exploited unlicensed contractors. The Court of Special Appeals Judge recently authored an opinion for a three judge panel in a case where an unlicensed contractor sought to be paid for home improvement work guaranteed by a licensed new home builder. The facts of the case were unusual; however, what was significant was the Court’s refusal to inequitably deny compensation to the builder merely because it had no license. The Court insisted that a balancing test be utilized which considered a number of factors, including: (1) whether the contractor held a valid license at the time of contracting; (2) whether the contractor readily secured a license; and (3) the responsibility and competence of the contractor. The Court went on to state that “each factor need not be present ‘the true test is whether the contractor’s substantial compliance with the licensing requirements satisfies the policy of the statute.” Hopefully this is a vanguard case. All too often carpenters, masons and other construction workers effectively employed by crafty homeowners for what amounts to a low hourly wage are denied any money based on the no license technicality. Often these individuals are immigrants (many with poor English speaking ability) who are unaware of the licensing requirements. This exploitation should not be allowed to continue!
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