Board Reminds Contractors They Must Hold License To Work in Wildfire Disaster Areas
SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) reminds contractors that they must hold a valid California contractors license, in the appropriate classification, in order to perform most work on homes and other structures damaged or destroyed by the recent Southern California wildfires. Some out-of-state contractors and unlicensed California contractors want to help with rebuilding in the wildfire disaster areas. However, it is illegal and punishable as a felony to perform contracting work in a declared disaster area without a contractors license. Punishment may include a fine of up to $10,000 or up to 16 months in state prison.
The CSLB has joined the Department of Insurance, local district attorney's offices, sheriff's departments, and the Governor's Office of Emergency Services as a member of the Disaster Fraud Management Taskforce. The Taskforce is conducting undercover sweeps in San Bernardino, San Diego, and Riverside Counties, and checking the licenses of contractors working or soliciting work in disaster areas.
"Some unlicensed contractors have good intentions and want to help homeowners rebuild, but the reality is, they must be tested and licensed by the CSLB to do so legally," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands.
Anyone who contracts for or bids on a job that totals $500 or more (labor and materials) must hold a contractors license from the CSLB. There are exceptions, including working as an employee of a licensed contractor or taking jobs that are valued at less than $500.
To become licensed, one must submit an application for review, verify four years of journey level experience in the trade to be licensed (general, plumbing, etc.), pass a two-part examination (trade and business/law), secure a license bond, and provide workers' compensation insurance for employees. The entire process can take up to six months.
"The process to become licensed is in place to make sure, to the extent possible, that contractors have the qualifications and experience necessary to perform contracting work. It is not something that can or should be done overnight," said Sands.
Check a contractors license on CSLB's Web site, www.cslb.ca.gov, to find out if the contractors license is active and in the right classification for the work to be done. You can also see if there are any legal complaints against the contractor, if the business name and address are correct, and ifthere is workers' compensation insurance coverage for employees.
The CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips when dealing with a building contractor:
- Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see the license
- Get three bids, check references, and get a written contract
- Don't rush into repairs, no matter how badly they're needed
- Verify the contractor's license at www.cslb.ca.gov or (800) 321-CSLB
- For restoration and repair, don't pay more than 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less. There is no down payment restriction for new construction
- Don't pay cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work.
The CSLB, 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 every year.
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