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CSLB Urges Industry to Help Protect Fire Victims from Unscrupulous or Unlicensed Contractors

Dozens of CSLB staff working to make sure homeowners don't become victims twice

SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is urging California's construction industry to step forward to help those whose homes were destroyed or damaged in the recent southern California wildfires. It is important for fire victims to avoid falling prey to unlicensed or unscrupulous contractors and becoming victimized a second time as they begin rebuilding their homes.

As a contractor, if you solicit work in the fire area, the CSLB reminds you to make sure that your business and insurance paperwork and policies are in order. This includes having an active business license for that local area, a current workers' compensation insurance policy, and general liability insurance, if you carry that type of coverage. Do your part to educate the fire victims about the importance of hiring licensed contractors who carry the proper insurance.

Since the entire nation will be focused on California's rebuilding effort, the CSLB is pointing out to contractors the importance of making sure that all contracts and change orders are complete, detailed, and clearly understood by all parties. To learn more, visit www.cslb.ca.gov and download or order the CSLB publication: Contracting for Success: A Contractor's Guide to Home Improvement Contracts.

Even before the smoke settled from the devastating wildfires, the CSLB was hard at work to make sure victims were prepared for the onslaught of unlicensed and unscrupulous contractors, and to get the word out to cons that they face felony charges if caught contracting without a license in the disaster area.

For more than three weeks, CSLB staff was available to fire victims and contractors at 10 different Local Assistance Centers (LAC) in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange and San Diego Counties. CSLB educational materials are still available at all open LACs. CSLB Enforcement representatives were also some of the first responders of a Joint Task Force, which includes local law enforcement and the Department of Insurance. Teams have already begun sweeping through the various fire zones.

Don't risk being caught without the proper business licenses or without workers' compensation insurance if you have employees. Not only could you face stiff fines; you're putting fire victims and your employees in danger.

"Everyone in the construction industry has a responsibility to these property owners," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Whether you're a contractor working for a fire victim or even if you've heard about an unlicensed operator trying to get work in the area, it's important to pass along information about scammers to the proper authorities."

The CSLB encourages all licensed contractors to watch for unlicensed operators trying to get work or advertising to work in the fire zones. If you have information, you can call the CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team at (562)345-7600 or fax advertisements to (562)466-6065.

"The felony charges for those caught contracting without a license carry a sentence of up to three years in state prison and a $10,000 fine," reminded Sands. Eight suspected unlicensed operators have already been arrested in undercover sting operations in San Diego County.

CSLB staff is also busy placing hundreds of warning signs throughout the fire areas. On one side of the sign, consumers are alerted to only hire licensed contractors; the opposite side warns illegal operators of the felony charges they would face.

Local retail establishments are being asked to download and print these bright red and white signs from the CSLB Website and display them in their front windows. "We're hoping licensed contractors and industry groups will do their part to help us get the word out," said Registrar Sands.

The CSLB is committed to its work in the various fire zones in the weeks and months ahead. Activities will include more enforcement operations, participation in town hall and community meetings, and quickly moving to investigate any complaints filed by fire victims.

 

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