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Contractors Board Warns Consumers About
Unlicensed Contractors After Disasters

SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is warning consumers about the dangers of hiring unlicensed contractors following a disaster, whether it is earthquake, fire, flood or mudslide. Unscrupulous, unlicensed contractors often prey on victims of natural disasters.

It is a felony to contract without a license in a declared disaster area. Consumers can protect themselves by using CSLB's resources to check a contractor's license status and history.

"Don't let a natural disaster result in a man-made one by hiring the first contractor who comes along," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Take your time and protect yourself against con artists who will take your money and run—or incompetent contractors who will perform shoddy work. Hire only licensed contractors and check their qualifications with the Board."

Consumers can verify a contractor's license status and order publications, free of charge, on this website. You can also call CSLB, toll-free: (800) 321-CSLB (2752).

Contractors working on a job—from debris removal to rebuilding—totaling $500 or more for labor and materials must be licensed by CSLB. To become licensed, a contractor must pass a licensing examination, verify at least four years of journey-level experience, carry a license bond, and pass a criminal background check.

CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips when dealing with a building contractor:

  • Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see the license.
  • Verify the contractor's license by checking online at www.cslb.ca.gov.
  • Don't rush into decisions and don't hire the first contractor who comes along.
  • Don't pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000—whichever is less.
  • Don't pay cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work.
  • Get three bids, check references, and get a written contract.
  • Contact CSLB if you have a complaint against a contractor.

The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. CSLB licenses and regulates California's 300,000 contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors, annually. In fiscal year 2011-12, CSLB helped recover nearly $36 million in ordered restitution for consumers.