Unlicensed Contractors Caught in Undercover Sting
ROHNERT PARK — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) cited 16 suspected unlicensed contractors in an undercover sting, held in cooperation with the Sonoma County District Attorneys Office, on October 29 in Rohnert Park. Fourteen received Notices to Appear (NTA) in Municipal Court for contracting without a license, and two were cited for illegal advertising and ordered to disconnect the telephone number used in their ads. Their court date is scheduled for December 12, 2002. Those who received NTAs could face a maximum of six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine for a first offense.
The undercover operation was conducted in response to complaints regarding unlicensed tile and refinishing contractors illegally doing business in Sonoma County. Five suspected unlicensed contractors bid on tile work, and eleven others bid on landscaping, deck construction, tree removal, and painting.
"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 contracts 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 or were targeted from complaints received by CSLB against them. If their bid for the project was $500 or more and they failed to have a license, 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 on-line at www.cslb.ca.gov or toll-free at (800) 321-CSLB.
- 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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