LAS VEGAS CONTRACTORS BOARD DEFENSE ATTORNEY
WHY HIRE AN ATTORNEY TO DEFEND ACTION BY CONTRACTORS BOARD
Nevada, like most other states, has an administrative board (“Board”) that oversees contractors that is empowered by the State Legislature under Chapter 624 of the Nevada Revised Statutes to investigate claims against licensees, hold hearings, and administer discipline when warranted.
One of the most tragic and damaging things we encounter is when the contractor represents itself before a Board hearing and then calls us after its license has been revoked or a heavy fine or restitution imposed- or all of the above. Sometimes, the contractor is defaulted because it did not understand what was required of it in order to be allowed the privilege of defending the complaint. If defaulted, even because of some minor procedural misstep, the contractor will not be allowed to speak during the hearing.
The Nevada State Contractors’ Board has its own rules, its own courtroom, its own prosecutors and its own judges! The Board conducts hearings as if they were in court. You wouldn’t go to court without a lawyer. Do NOT attempt to represent yourself in their forum. The rules are meant to favor the Board, not you. BUT, many do not know that there are procedural safeguards contained in the laws passed by the Nevada legislature and those in the Constitution, meant to protect you. Someone knowledgeable and skillful can attack the complaint itself – seek discovery in form for of depositions of witnesses before hearings are conducted or subpoena relevant documents for your defense. These devices, while available, are underutilized, even by attorneys who regularly appear before the Board. While having a good working relationship with the Board is key, it should never be the only option in resolving disputes. Sometimes, you have to fight – and fight hard.
The form of discipline potentially administered by the Board can be substantial, including the suspension or revocation of a license; refusal of renewals of licenses; imposition of the limits on the field, scope and monetary limit of the license; and the imposition of an administrative fine of not more than $10,000, just to name a few. Therefore, it is imperative that you hire an attorney as soon as you become aware that an investigation is being conducted. Hiring an experienced attorney can avoid some costly mistakes that are often made when communicating directly with the board. There is truth in the caveat that what you say can and will be used against you.
One of the most important reasons for hiring an attorney at the beginning of an investigation is that it is a violation of NRS 624.3013, subsection (2), for a licensee to misrepresent or omit a material fact in connection with any information or evidence furnished to the Board in connection with official matters of the Board. Thus, if an investigator believes that a licensee has misrepresented the facts or failed to disclose information the investigator believes should have been disclosed, the Board can impose disciplinary action against the licensee. Therefore, the question at issue is “what constitutes a material fact”? This is a totally subjective question and a licensee facing an investigation is best served by hiring a qualified attorney to represent them.
For example, a common complaint against a contractor is that the contractor abandoned the project or failed to diligently prosecute the work in a timely fashion. However, such a claim is, of course, based on the circumstances of each case. Not every delay in the work is the fault of the contractor. That is precisely why certain elements of the statute must be met before a contractor can be disciplined for abandonment or failure to complete the project. However, how the licensee responds to the investigator is paramount in establishing whether certain elements exist. Thus, communication through an attorney is critical.
Another common complaint is for disregarding plans, specifications, laws, or regulations. If proven, this charge can result in the imposition of severe disciplinary action. NRS 624.3011 states that the willful and prejudicial departure from or disregard of plans or specifications in any material respect without the consent of the owner or the owner’s authorized representative and the person entitled to have the project or operation completed in accordance with the plans and specifications is grounds for disciplinary action. Again, certain elements must be present before a violation can be established. Therefore, hiring the right attorney is paramount to a successful defense.
Further, if a contractor receives a Notice to Correct and disagrees with it, the contractor can either perform the work as directed, without exception, or contest the directive. Often times, these Notices are vague or ambiguous in their direction, leaving the Board and the owner (your client) with the greatest leeway to come after you later if either is not satisfied with the rework. This is a critical moment to get counsel involved in order to establish a clear and concise record of exactly what punch list items are actually appropriate and to make sure there is no confusion about what work is going to be performed to address the NTC. Failure to perform according to a NTC is grounds for discipline. A limited time is given to contest the NTC and once contested, the matter goes before an Administrative Law Judge where counsel can effectively argue the legal issues involved, which may have fallen upon deaf ears hen raised to the investigator.
There are many grounds upon which the Board has authority to administer disciplinary actions. However, that authority is not without limits, and there are some instances where the board oversteps its authority. There are many time-sensitive actions that must be taken. When a party is represented by an attorney, service of all notices, motions, orders, decisions, and other papers will be made upon the attorney. Likewise, the attorney will sign all motions, oppositions, notices, requests, and other papers on behalf of the licensee, including requests for subpoenas. The Wright Law Group, P.C. has decades of experience defending claims before the Contractors Board and is well equipped to assist you in handling your case. Please call us at 702-405-0001 to schedule a consultation or email us.