State Regulator Takes Action Against Local Contractor Accused of Illegal Business Practices
Agency Warns Elderly Homeowners
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY — A Contractors State License Board (CSLB) investigation has resulted in a disciplinary action against Christie Electric, a licensed contracting company, that is accused of illegal business practices and violations of contractor law. The CSLB has begun proceedings to revoke Christie Electric's contractors license for allegedly making false and misleading statements in order to secure contracts - often with elderly homeowners. The CSLB contends that such false statements created a sense of danger and urgency that convinced homeowners to pay thousands of dollars for unnecessary work.
The CSLB investigation includes 90 complaints from homeowners who reported that they believed they had been overcharged for work that was not needed.
One elderly Pittsburg woman contacted Christie Electric to inspect an electrical outlet in her home and ended up signing a $3,795 contract. An industry expert determined that the fair market value was $1,585. A company employee is accused of making false and misleading statements by claiming that the home was a fire hazard and the 78-year-old widow was in imminent danger if she did not agree to the work. Despite his warning, the employee left and returned the following day to start the job.
Another Pittsburg woman called Christie Electric because she had lost power on one wall in the bedroom in her home. She paid $1,165 for work determined by an industry expert to be worth $295. The 90-year-old homeowner stated to CSLB investigators that she felt that she was being taken advantage of, but that she had no one to talk to about her decision.
"Sadly, these cases illustrate how some elderly homeowners are targeted by dishonest contractors who are out to take advantage of vulnerable consumers. Before hiring or paying a contractor, I urge all homeowners to take their time before making a decision and to check with the CSLB for information," said Steve Sands, the Contractors State License Board Registrar.
The CSLB warns elderly homeowners to check with a friend or relative before signing a contract and to be wary of solicitors who create a false sense of urgency and pressure them into agreeing to home improvement work. To arm senior citizens with the tools to combat unscrupulous contracting practices, the CSLB is sponsoring a series of Senior Scam Stopper Seminars throughout the state. The next event will be held on July 26 at 10 a.m. at the Antioch Senior Center in Antioch. The free seminars will feature presentations by CSLB investigators, local law enforcement, the Bureau of Automotive Repair, and AARP. Free consumer protection information will be available.
Senior citizens should follow these tips when hiring a contractor:
- Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see the pocket license
- Check the contractor's license on the CSLB's web site at www.cslb.ca.gov or by calling (800) 321-CSLB
- Be wary of door-to-door solicitations
- Don't be pressured into making an immediate decision about hiring a contractor
- Get at least three bids and check references
- Get a written contract
- Ask a friend or relative to review the contract before signing
- 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 payments get ahead of the work
- Contact the CSLB if you have a complaint against a contractor
The Contractors State License Board operates under the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The CSLB licenses and regulates California's 278,000 contractors and investigates 25,000 complaints against contractors annually.
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