Unlicensed Contractors Caught in Undercover Sting
SAN FRANCSICO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) cited 12 suspected unlicensed contractors in an undercover sting held last week (6/5/2002) in San Francisco. All received citations from CSLB investigators and were fined dollar amounts that range from $500-$4,000 each. The enforcement operation was held in cooperation with the San Francisco Police Department.
Contractors were cited for contracting without a license, illegal advertising, and asking for an illegally excessive down payment. Their bids -- ranging from $2,000-$75,000 -- were for a variety of jobs, including sheet rock work, painting, plastering, a kitchen remodel, and flooring.
"Unlicensed individuals who act as legitimate contractors are put on notice that the Contractors State License Board is aggressively pursuing those who defraud California consumers," said Contractors State License Board Registrar Steve Sands.
"This sting is part of CSLB's continuous enforcement effort to protect Californians," he added.
By law, anyone who contractors for or bids on a construction project priced at $500 or more (total labor and materials) must be licensed by the CSLB. To qualify for a license, a contractor must pass a trade and license law examination, verify four years of journey-level experience in the trade, and post a license bond. Unlicensed contractors can advertise only if they state in their ad that they are unlicensed and bid on work valued less than $500.
Here's how the sting worked: suspected unlicensed contractors were invited by CSLB investigators posing as homeowners to bid on work at the "sting" house. The suspected unlicensed contractors were contacted from advertisements they placed in local publications. If their bid for the project was $500 or more and they failed to have a license, they were cited, or if their bid was less than $500 and they failed to disclose they were unlicensed and provide a required written notice, they were cited.
CSLB investigators who deal with unlicensed contractors have the authority to issue administrative citations that may carry a fine.
The CSLB maintains a website and toll-free telephone system from which consumers can verify a contractor's license status, free of charge, 24 hours a day. Also available from the CSLB are free consumer publications.
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 rush into decisions and don't hire the first contractor who comes along.
- Verify the contractor's license by going online at www.cslb.ca.gov or toll-free at (800) 321-CSLB.
- 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 the CSLB if you have a complaint against a contractor.
The Contractors State License Board, 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 annually.
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