Poor business associations can jeopardize contractors’ and design professionals’ licenses

Virginia regulations set forth a long list of “dos and don’ts” for contractors and design professionals.   Most of the prohibitions concern the contractor’s or design professional’s own conduct.  For example, contractors may not practice contracting without a license; they may not provide services using expired licenses; they may not submit bids to perform work without a license; and they may not engage in dishonest conduct in the practice of contracting.

Similarly, design professionals may not knowingly make false statements; they may not accept bribes from suppliers; and they may not misrepresent their work experience and qualifications.  However, the old adage that “bad company corrupts good morals” rings true for contractors and design professionals.

Contractors must be attentive to those with whom they associate.  Virginia regulations prohibit a contractor from contracting with an unlicensed or improperly licensed contractor or subcontractor for the delivery of contracting services.  Ignorance of another party’s license status is no defense.  The Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation maintains a comprehensive database of licensees – readily accessible to the public — which makes the process of verifying a person/entity’s license very simple and straightforward.   Furthermore, if the contractor knows a person/entity is unlicensed, the contractor may not even receive or consider a bid from that unlicensed person/entity.

Similarly, design professionals must also be mindful of those with whom they associate.  For example, an architect or engineer may not knowingly associate in a business venture with other persons or firms if the licensee has reason to suspect fraudulent, dishonest, or illegal activity.  Licensed professionals are also obligated to report other professionals’ improper conduct.

Be mindful that not only must you ensure that you are properly licensed but don’t take for granted the licenses of others involved in your projects.  If you keep “bad company,” be prepared for a fine … or worse.