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CSLB Press Release - 04/22/10

Contractors State License Board Helps Consumers Protect Kids from Lead Exposure in Their Homes

New link from CSLB Web site shows licensees with federal lead-safety certification


SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is making it easier for home and rental property owners to get information about federal lead-safety standards that take effect today. Any remodeling or demolition in housing, childcare facilities or schools constructed in or before1978 must be done by a contractor who has United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA)-accredited training and certification as a renovator.

The regulations were put into effect to safeguard children from lead exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can possibly suffer from brain and nervous system damage, behavioral problems, slowed growth, and hearing problems. Numerous scientific studies show lead is more dangerous to babies and young children because they are more likely to put their hands and objects with lead dust in their mouths, their growing bodies absorb more lead, and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to lead's potentially damaging effects.

Visitors to CSLB's Web site www.cslb.ca.gov can then link to basic information about lead in homes and a link to the US EPA Web site that lists licensed California contractors who have completed training and certification as renovators.

According to federal law, all contractors who disturb lead-based paint in a six square-foot area or greater indoors, or a 20-square-foot area outdoors must have renovator training and certification. In addition, contractors must provide the US EPA's Renovate Right pamphlet to residents or facility operators before a remodeling or demolition begins. They must also provide information to families with children who attend a child care facility or school where such a project is taking place.

The US EPA fine for contractors who violate the requirements is $37,500 per day. The law does not apply to individuals that undertake renovation or demolition work in their own home.

If an inspector or risk assessor certified by the California Department of Public Health determines that a building constructed before 1978 is lead-free, the certification is not required for contractors working on that particular building.

CSLB recommends you only hire licensed contractors to work on your home to protect you and your family. In addition to not complying with this new lead-safety requirement, unlicensed contractors do not have workers' compensation insurance which could leave a home owner liable if a worker is injured on their property. CSLB licensees are also required to have a $12,500 bond, which can help protect the home owner if something goes wrong with the project. Since 2005, all contractors applying for a new license or changing or adding to their license classification have been required to pass a criminal background check.

"The health and safety of your family should not be left to chance," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "It only takes a few minutes to check the CSLB Web site to see whether your contractor is licensed, and to ensure they have the proper training if they are going to be disturbing lead paint on your property."

CSLB urges consumers to follow the tips below when hiring a contractor:

  • Be especially hesitant when approached by someone offering home improvement services door-to-door.
  • Verify the contractor's license by checking online at www.cslb.ca.gov, or via CSLB's automated phone system at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752), and ask to see a photo identification to make sure you're dealing with the correct person.
  • Don't pay more than 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less. There is an exception to this for about two dozen contractors who have special bonds for consumer protection that are noted on the CSLB Web site.
  • Don't pay in cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work.
  • Check references, and get at least three bids and a written contract before your project begins.
  • 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. More information about hiring contractors is available on the CSLB Web site or by calling 800-321-CSLB (2752). CSLB licenses and regulates California's almost 310,000 contractors, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2008-09, CSLB investigated more than 20,000 complaints and helped recover nearly $36 million in ordered restitution for consumers.