Contractors Board Warns Bay Area Consumers About Unlicensed Contractors
BURLINGAME — The Contractors State License Board is warning consumers about the dangers of hiring unlicensed contractors during National Consumer Protection Week (February 1-7, 2004). A blitz of CSLB undercover sting operations conducted in the San Francisco Bay Area during the last month underscores the risk of hiring unlicensed contractors.
At stings in San Rafael (January 15), Sunnyvale (January 21-22), San Francisco (January 28), and Burlingame (February 4), a total of 81 suspected unlicensed contractors were cited for contracting without a license.
The CSLB undercover operatives invited suspected unlicensed contractors to secret sting houses. When they bid on jobs -- ranging from kitchen and bathroom remodels, painting and plumbing to landscaping, flooring and electrical -- and were found to be unlicensed, 67 were issued Notice to Appear (NTA) misdemeanor citations and ordered to appear in municipal court.
Fifteen of the NTA's were issued to unlicensed contractors at the San Rafael sting; 32 were issued at the Sunnyvale sting, seven went to suspects at the San Francisco sting, and 13 were issued in Burlingame. Twenty-nine unlicensed contractors received administrative citations. (Some of the phony contractors received only an NTA or administrative citation; some received both, depending on the alleged violation.)
The stings were held in cooperation with local law enforcement. Officers from the San Rafael, Burlingame, and San Francisco Police Departments and a Deputy District Attorney from the Santa Clara County District Attorneys Office provided backup at the stings.
Because of their non-compliance with workers' compensation guidelines, unlicensed contractors often submit lower bids on jobs, and District Attorney's Offices that partnered with CSLB in the stings will prosecute illegal contractors. Consequently, nine separate NTAs were issued by the Santa Clara District Attorney's Office at the Sunnyvale sting for violations of workers' compensation requirements.
The objective is to achieve a level playing field for licensed contractors competing in the local business area.
By law, all contractors who perform work that totals $500 or more (labor and materials) must be licensed by the CSLB.
The CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips when dealing with a building contractor:
- Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see the license.
- Verify the contractor's license by checking on-line at www.cslb.ca.gov.
- Don't rush into decisions and don't hire the first contractor who comes along.
- 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 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.
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