Contractors need a license from the Nevada State Contractors Board before they can do business in Nevada. Unlicensed contractors face hefty fines and potential time in Nevada jails. In addition, any contracts that unlicensed contractors entered into are void.
On this page, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys explain Nevada laws for "unlicensed contractors." Keep reading to learn what constitutes an unlicensed contractor, how to fight charges, and possible penalties.
Definition of "unlicensed contractor" in Nevada
Construction is big business in Nevada, especially Las Vegas. With new homes and businesses constantly going up or undergoing renovations, there is a large demand for contractors. And as with many professions, contractors are required to have a license.
NRS 624.700 prohibits people from working as contractors in Nevada without a current, valid contractor's license from the Nevada State Contractors Board. Specifically, it is illegal for unlicensed contractors to do either of the following:
- Engage in the business or act in the capacity of a contractor within Nevada; or
- Submit a bid on a job located within Nevada
Therefore, it is unlawful in Nevada for unlicensed contractors not only to physically undertake a construction job ... but also merely to make an offer to do a construction job.1 Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example:
Ed is a contractor who does not realize that his license lapsed last month. He makes a bid for construction job in Henderson. After researching Ed's credentials, the client discovers he is unlicensed in Nevada and reports him to the authorities. The police then arrest Ed and book him at the Henderson Detention Center.
In the above example, Ed can be convicted of being an unlicensed contractor in Nevada even though he honestly did not realize that his license has lapsed. It does not matter that the Henderson clients never hired Ed and he did not do any work for them. Nor would it matter if Ed had a great reputation as a contractor and never forgot to renew his license before. Merely lacking a license is enough to warrant prosecution if the contractor works or makes a bid to get work.
Note that unlicensed contractor cases are typically prosecuted not by a county district attorney but rather the Nevada Attorney General.
There are eleven circumstances where a contractor may lawfully work in Nevada without a license.2 These include:
- Work performed exclusively by an authorized representative of the United States Government, the State of Nevada, or an incorporated city, county, irrigation district, reclamation district, or other municipal or political corporation or subdivision of this State.
- An officer of a court when acting within the scope of his or her office.
- Work performed exclusively by a public utility operating pursuant to the regulations of the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada on construction, maintenance and development work incidental to its business.
- An owner of property who is building or improving a residential structure on the property for his or her own occupancy and not intended for sale or lease.
- In some cases, any work to repair or maintain property the value of which is less than $1,000, including labor and materials.
- The sale or installation of any finished product, material or article of merchandise which is not fabricated into and does not become a permanent fixed part of the structure.
- The construction, alteration, improvement or repair of personal property.
- The construction, alteration, improvement or repair financed in whole or in part by the Federal Government and conducted within the limits and boundaries of a site or reservation, the title of which rests in the Federal Government.
- An owner of property, the primary use of which is as an agricultural or farming enterprise, building or improving a structure on the property for his or her use or occupancy and not intended for sale or lease.
- Construction oversight services provided to a long-term recovery group by a qualified person within a particular geographic area that is described in a proclamation of a state of emergency or declaration of disaster by the State or Federal Government.
- A person licensed as a real estate broker, real estate broker-salesperson or real estate salesperson, acting within the scope of the license or a permit to engage in property management issued pursuant to NRS 645.6052, assists a client in scheduling work to repair or maintain residential property pursuant to a written brokerage agreement or a property management agreement.
If a contractor is unsure whether he/she falls within one of the above exceptions, it is recommended he/she contact the Nevada State Contractors Board at (702) 486-1100 or (775) 688-1141.
Other Nevada offenses involving license requirements
Contracting is only one of several Nevada professions which mandate that the worker secure a state-issued license or permit. Another job which requires government licensing is taxi driving. And like contracting, operating a cab without a permit is an offense in Nevada. Learn more in our article about the Nevada crime of operating a cab without a license.
Defenses for "unlicensed contractors" in Nevada
Effective defenses for Nevada charges of unlicensed contracting turn on the unique circumstances of the case. The most common strategies are the following:
- Clerical error. It is possible that the defendant is properly licensed, but the Nevada State Contractors Board does not have accurate records due to an administrative oversight. If the defense attorney can show that the mistake lies with the government and not the defendant, the case should be dismissed.
- Lawful exception. As stated in the previous section, not all contractors need a license in order to work. If the defense attorney can demonstrate that the defendant was acting pursuant to one of the legal exceptions to Nevada's contracting licensing laws, the charges should be dropped.
Recall that it is not a defense that the defendant genuinely did not realize that he/she did not have a contractor's license, or that he/she needed a have license.
Penalties for "unlicensed contractors" in Nevada
- up to $1,000 in fines, and
- maybe up to 6 months in jail, and
- possible restitution payments
Meanwhile, a second-time offense of violating NRS 624.700 is a gross misdemeanor in Nevada, carrying:
- $2,000 to $4,000 in fines, and
- maybe up to 364 days in jail, and
- possible restitution payments
Finally, a third-time or subsequent offense of violating NRS 624.700 is a category E felony in Nevada, carrying:
- $5,000 to $10,000 in fines, and
- maybe incarceration of 1 to 4 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- possible restitution payments
The amount of restitution an "unlicensed contractor" defendant may need to pay in Nevada depends on the circumstances of the case.4 Restitution typically consists of the following three expenses:
- Court costs and the costs of prosecuting the case; and/or
- Costs the Nevada State Contractors Board incurred to investigate the case; and/or
- Damages the defendant caused as a result of the violation up to the amount of his/her pecuniary gain from the violation.
In addition to fines, restitution, and potential jail time, defendants convicted of being unlicensed contractors in Nevada also lose out on any business contracts they entered into. Judges will consider those contracts void, and they cannot be enforced in a court of law.5
Licensed contractors who perform substandard workmanship or commit unprofessional conduct or serious crimes face disciplinary actions, including having their license suspended or revoked. Learn more in our article on disciplinary proceedings and license revocations for Nevada contractors.
Arrested for "unlicensed contract work"? Call us...
If you are a contractor facing charges for doing business or submitting a bid without the proper license, call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). Our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys will consult with you for free. We may be able to get the case dropped or reduced to a lesser offense. (For cases in California, please see our page on Business & Professions Code 7028 - unlicensed contracting.)
1NRS 624.700 Engaging in business or submitting bid without license unlawful; prosecution; damages; bid submitted in violation of section void.
1. It is unlawful for any person or combination of persons to:
(a) Engage in the business or act in the capacity of a contractor within this State; or
(b) Submit a bid on a job situated within this State,
-> without having an active license therefor as provided in this chapter, unless that person or combination of persons is exempted from licensure pursuant to NRS 624.031.
2. The district attorneys in this State shall prosecute all violations of this section which occur in their respective counties, unless the violations are prosecuted by the Attorney General. Upon the request of the Board, the Attorney General shall prosecute any violation of this section in lieu of prosecution by the district attorney.
3. In addition to any other penalty imposed pursuant to this chapter, a person who is convicted of violating subsection 1 may be required to pay:
(a) Court costs and the costs of prosecution;
(b) Reasonable costs of the investigation of the violation to the Board;
(c) Damages the person caused as a result of the violation up to the amount of the person's pecuniary gain from the violation; or
(d) Any combination of paragraphs (a), (b) and (c).
4. If a person submits a bid or enters into a contract in violation of subsection 1, the bid or contract shall be deemed void ab initio.
3NRS 624.750 Other unlawful acts or omissions; penalties for unlawful acts and omissions.
1. It is unlawful for a person to commit any act or omission described in subsection 1 of NRS 624.3012, subsection 2 of NRS 624.3013, NRS 624.3014 or subsection 1, 3 or 7 of NRS 624.3016.
2. Unless a greater penalty is otherwise provided by a specific statute, any person who violates subsection 1, NRS 624.305, subsection 1 of NRS 624.700 or NRS 624.720 or 624.740:
(a) For a first offense, is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000, and may be further punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 6 months.
(b) For the second offense, is guilty of a gross misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of not less than $2,000 nor more than $4,000, and may be further punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 364 days.
(c) For the third or subsequent offense, is guilty of a category E felony and shall be punished by a fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than $10,000 and may be further punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than 1 year and not more than 4 years.
3. It is unlawful for a person to receive money for the purpose of obtaining or paying for services, labor, materials or equipment if the person:
(a) Willfully fails to use that money for that purpose by failing to complete the improvements for which the person received the money or by failing to pay for any services, labor, materials or equipment provided for that construction; and
(b) Wrongfully diverts that money to a use other than that for which it was received.
4. Unless a greater penalty is otherwise provided by a specific statute, any person who violates subsection 3:
(a) If the amount of money wrongfully diverted is $1,000 or less, is guilty of a gross misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of not less than $2,000 nor more than $4,000, and may be further punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 364 days.
(b) If the amount of money wrongfully diverted is more than $1,000, is guilty of a category E felony and shall be punished by a fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than $10,000, and may be further punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than 1 year and not more than 4 years.
5. Imposition of a penalty provided for in this section is not precluded by any disciplinary action taken by the Board against a contractor pursuant to the provisions of NRS 624.300 to 624.305, inclusive.