Q&A: State Contractor's License Needed?

Q I am on the Board of Directors of a 336-unit condominium in New Jersey. My question is in reference to the Contractors’ Registration Act Title 56: 8-138. It requires contractors to register with the state if they are doing residential work. Since our condo is considered residential, are the common areas also residential? An example is if we are renovating a pool, exercise room or a large rear deck is this considered residential and therefore require the contractor to register with the state and be issued a license?

I checked with one city code enforcer and he said that the common areas are considered commercial and do not require a state contractor’s license. 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?

—Jersey Board Member

A “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 shareholder attorney David J. Byrne with the law firm of Stark & Stark in Lawrenceville. “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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