Agency Warns Consumers About Illegal Tree Trimmers
BIG BEAR-LAKE ARROWHEAD — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) has issued a warning to local property owners to be aware that unscrupulous and unlicensed contractors may be working in the area to remove trees damaged or destroyed by a bark beetle infestation. The CSLB is also conducting ongoing undercover sweeps of suspected unlicensed tree trimmers working in the area.
Governor Gray Davis proclaimed a state of emergency in Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties, stating that an "extraordinary" number of trees that are dead, dying and diseased because of a bark beetle infestation could create a fire danger. The CSLB activity comes in response to a concern that unscrupulous tree trimmers may attempt to take advantage of the situation and operate without the proper license or create an unnecessary sense of urgency to remove trees.
The Governor's proclamation, dated March 7, 2003, allows either contractors licensed by the CSLB or timber operators licensed by the California Department of Forestry to remove affected trees in the three counties.
"Consumers need to be aware that, despite the devastation of trees on their property and in their forests, they should check out workers removing trees and be certain they are properly licensed by the CSLB or the California Department of Forestry," said Contractors State License Board Registrar Steve Sands.
The CSLB sweeps will continue for the duration of the state of emergency. Several citations and a warning have been issued as a result of sweeps conducted this month.
CSLB investigators conduct sweeps by visiting job sites unannounced and asking contractors to produce proof of licensure in good standing. Contractors found to be improperly licensed may be cited. CSLB investigators who deal with unlicensed contractors have the authority to issue administrative citations that carry a fine.
Licensed contractors have a minimum of four years of journey-level experience in their trade, have passed a comprehensive written examination, and posted a license bond. Any contractor performing work that totals $500 or more (labor and materials) must be licensed by the CSLB.
The CSLB maintains a Web site, www.cslb.ca.gov, where consumers can verify a contractor's license status, free of charge, 24 hours a day. CSLB also provides free consumer publications.
The CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips when dealing with a 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 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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