Q&A: Is a Contractor’s License Always Required?

I serve on the board of a condominium in New Jersey that is currently undergoing renovations. There are 336 units in the development and I’d like to know if contractors need to be registered with the state if they are doing any residential work. I know there is a state act that requires it. And, since our condo is considered residential, are the common areas also residential? For example, let’s say we are renovating our pool or the exercise room, is that area considered residential and therefore require the contractor to register with the state and be issued a license?

I recently checked with one code enforcement official and he said that the common areas are considered commercial and do not require a state contractor’s license. However, another city code enforcer says that the entire condo is considered residential and even the common areas are considered residential and require contractors to have a state license. I have called several state agencies and cannot get an official answer. What do you think?

—Unsure in Union County

"New Jersey's Contractors Registration provides, generally, that any contractor performing work involving a 'home improvement' must be registered with the State of New Jersey,” says David J. Byrne, Esq., an attorney with the law firm of Ansell Grimm & Aaron, P.C., with offices in New York City, Princeton, Ocean and Clifton, New Jersey. “The statute itself defines 'home improvement' as the remodeling, altering, renovating, repairing, restoring, modernizing, moving, demolishing, or otherwise improving or modifying of the whole or any part of any residential or non-commercial property. New Jersey's Department of Community Affairs -- the agency given the responsibility of carrying out this law -- supplemented the definition of 'home improvement' with its own understanding. New Jersey's Administrative Code provides that 'home improvement' shall ‘mean and include any work subject to the code that involves the reconstruction, alteration, renovation, repair or demolition of the whole or any part of any building in Group R-2, R-3, R-4 or R-5, or in any building or structure appurtenant thereto...’ In light of the statutory language, as especially clarified and supplemented by the administrative code (as a condominium is included within ‘Group R-2, R-3, R-4 or R-5’), renovations, repairs, improvements to, etc., with respect to the common elements and/or areas or a condominium would constitute ‘home improvements’ such that any contractor hired for that work must be registered."    

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