You are here

Official Opinion 95-7

Official Opinion 95-7

February 23, 1995
To: 

Joint Secretary
State Examining Boards

Re: 

Authority of local governments to require contractors licensed by the state to obtain liability insurance or code compliance bonds.

You have asked this office for an official opinion on the following questions: (1) Are county and municipal governments prohibited from requiring contractors licensed by the Board to obtain liability insurance or code compliance bonds in order to perform work covered by the license? and (2) May county and municipal governments require conditioned air and plumbing contractors who have not executed and deposited a bond pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 43-14-12(b) to obtain a code compliance bond in order to perform work covered by the license?

A local law may address subject matter already covered by general law only if the local ordinance is authorized by the general law and the local ordinance does not conflict with the general law in the area. See Ga. Const. 1983, Art. III, Sec. VI, Para. IV; see also 1987 Op. Att'y Gen. 87-3.

Georgia law provides that any person who holds a license to engage in the business of plumbing, electrical contracting, conditioned air contracting, low-voltage contracting, or utility contracting pursuant to the State Construction Industry Licensing Act (hereinafter the "Act") may engage in such practice state-wide "and except as provided in Code Section 43-14-12, no municipality or county may require such person to comply with any additional licensing requirements imposed by such municipality or county." O.C.G.A. § 43-14-13(b).

Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 43-14-12 provides, in part, that local governments may adopt and enforce local codes. O.C.G.A. § 43-14-12(b)(1). It also provides for a procedure whereby conditioned air and plumbing contractors may voluntarily execute a bond with the judge of the probate court in the county of the contractors' principal place of business. O.C.G.A. § 43-14-12(b)(2). In addition, it provides that no county or municipality may require any licensed conditioned air contractor or licensed plumber who has executed and deposited such a bond to give any code compliance bond or similar bond. O.C.G.A. § 43-14-12(b)(1).

This office has previously opined that the General Assembly intended to preempt local jurisdictions from establishing and maintaining their own licensing schemes or licensing requirements for plumbing, electrical contracting, conditioned air contracting, low-voltage contracting, and utility contracting when it adopted the Act. See 1987 Op. Att'y Gen. 87-3 and 1980 Op. Att'y Gen. U80-31. The purpose of this preemption is to avoid a patchwork of local and state licensure requirements. Id. As provided in O.C.G.A. § 43-14-13(b), the only exception to this general prohibition against local governments creating additional licensure requirements is contained in O.C.G.A. § 43-14-12. Therefore, in order to be valid, a local ordinance creating such a requirement must be authorized by O.C.G.A. § 43-14-12 and cannot otherwise conflict with the general law in the area.

Requiring contractors to obtain liability insurance in order to perform work covered by the license would create an additional licensing requirement since having such insurance would be a condition precedent to lawfully practicing the licensed occupation. See 1987 Op. Att'y Gen. 87-3; see also Beard v. City of Atlanta, 91 Ga. App. 584, 588-90 (1955). It is clear that the legislature can require insurance as a condition for licensure of a profession if it so chooses. See, e.g., O.C.G.A. §§ 43-48-8(b) and 43-47-8(l). Further, nothing in the Act or in O.C.G.A. § 43-14-12 authorizes local jurisdictions to promulgate laws relating to liability insurance. Therefore, county and municipal governments are prohibited from requiring that contractors licensed under the Act must obtain liability insurance in order to perform work covered by the license.

A requirement for a code compliance bond would also constitute an additional licensure requirement. See, e.g., O.C.G.A. §§ 43-48-8(c) and 43-47-8(h). As noted above however, the legislature has authorized local jurisdictions to adopt and enforce codes. A code compliance bond is a method of enforcing local codes. It appears, therefore, that a local ordinance requiring code compliance bonds would be authorized by O.C.G.A. § 43-14-12(b)(1) to the extent that it does not otherwise conflict with the general law and provided that it does not require such a bond from conditioned air and plumbing contractors who have executed and deposited a bond under O.C.G.A. § 43-14-12(b)(2).

For the reasons stated above, it is my official opinion that county and municipal governments are prohibited from requiring contractors licensed under the Act to obtain liability insurance in order to perform work covered by the license. Further, it is my official opinion that county and municipal governments may require contractors to obtain code compliance bonds in order to perform work covered by the contractor's license, provided that the local government may not require such a bond from conditioned air contractors and plumbers who have executed and deposited a bond under O.C.G.A. § 43-14-12(b)(2) and provided that the local ordinance does not otherwise conflict with the general law.

Prepared by:

THOMAS K. BOND
Assistant Attorney General