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CSLB Press Release - 10/29/2003

Contractors Board Warns Southern California Wildfire Victims Against Hiring Unlicensed Contractors

SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) warns Southern California wildfire victims to use caution when hiring a contractor to repair or rebuild their homes. Unscrupulous, unlicensed contractors often prey on victims of natural disasters. The CSLB has found that some unscrupulous or unlicensed contractors take advantage of homeowners who are anxious to rebuild.

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. 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 them out with the Board," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands.

The CSLB is issuing this warning and providing disaster response kits to fire victims at evacuation and disaster relief centers throughout Southern California. Consumers can verify a contractor's license status and order publications, free of charge, 24 hours a day using the CSLB's Web site at www.cslb.ca.gov or toll-free automated telephone system at (800) 321-CSLB. The CSLB has also activated its disaster hotline at (800) 962-1125, which is set up to answer questions from disaster victims only. CSLB Call Center hours are 8:00 am to 3:00 pm Monday through Friday.

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

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

  • Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see the license
  • Don't hire the first contractor who comes along
  • Don't rush into repairs, no matter how badly they're needed
  • Verify the contractor's license at www.cslb.ca.gov or (800) 321-CSLB
  • Don't pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment
  • 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

The CSLB, which operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, licenses 278,000 contractors in California and investigates 25,000 complaints against licensed and unlicensed contractors every year.