Contractors Board Warns Bay Area Consumers About Unlicensed Contractors
SAN FRANCISCO — Homeowners are getting ready for the winter season, and the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is warning consumers about the dangers of hiring unlicensed contractors for winter fix-ups like roof repair, furnace maintenance, or holiday spruce ups. The CSLB has found that the most common complaints against contractors can be avoided when consumers understand and exercise their rights and responsibilities.
A recent blitz of CSLB Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) undercover sting operations conducted in the Bay Area underscored the risk of hiring unlicensed contractors. At stings in Saratoga, San Rafael, Kensington, and San Francisco on November 12 and 13, 66 suspected unlicensed contractors were cited for contracting without a license. Some of the phony contractors asked for illegally large down payments and for cash payments.
The SWIFT undercover operatives invited suspected unlicensed contractors to secret sting houses. When they bid on jobs -- ranging from painting and plastering to flooring and landscaping -- and were found to be unlicensed, 57 were issued Notice to Appear misdemeanor citations and ordered to appear in municipal court. Nine received administrative citations. Some were arrested for unrelated outstanding warrants.
By law, all contractors who perform work that totals $500 or more (labor and materials) must be licensed by the CSLB.
The CSLB has found that the most common complaints against contractors can be avoided when consumers understand and exercise their rights and responsibilities, including:
- The right to hire licensed contractors
- The right to check a contractor's license with the CSLB
- The right to pay only 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment
- The right to a written contract that specifies project costs, the down payment, a payment schedule, and start and completion dates.
The CSLB urges all consumers to order the "Home Improvement Bill of Rights" and other free publications online at www.cslb.ca.gov or toll-free at (800) 321-CSLB.
A recent statewide survey revealed that a majority of homeowners do not know that by law a contractor cannot ask for more than 10 percent or $1,000 down, whichever is less. A few of the contractors who were nabbed in the last two days asked for excessive down payments.
Consumers need to be aware they have the right to negotiate a clear home improvement contract. These financial elements protect consumers in a number of important ways: the total cost of the project (labor and materials) is clearly stated, which eliminates any misunderstandings about the final price, and a lawful down payment and payment schedule ensures that consumers do not pay for work or materials that have not been completed or delivered.
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The CSLB licenses and regulates California's 278,000 contractors, and investigates 25,000 complaints against contractors annually.
Sign Up For News Release Email Alerts
Please type in your email below and click submit.