State Contractors Board Catch "Big Ones" in Bass Lake Sting
More than One Dozen Illegal Contractors reeled in During Undercover Operation
SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is using the results of an undercover sting operation at Bass Lake to educate and warn consumers about the dangers of hiring unlicensed contractors. CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT), in cooperation with the Madera County District Attorney's Office and with help from the California Highway Patrol, conducted the undercover operation on Thursday. The sting underscores the fact that illegal contractors don't take a vacation from resort and rural areas of the state.
SWIFT investigators stung a total of 13 unlicensed contractors in yesterday's undercover operation. One person was arrested on an outstanding felony warrant for grand theft.
The SWIFT undercover operatives used advertisements and prior complaints to identify suspected unlicensed contractors. Those people were invited to a secret sting location at Bass Lake. When they bid more than the legal limit of $500 for various home improvement projects, ten were issued Notices to Appear (NTA) before a Madera County Superior Court Judge. They could face a maximum of six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine for a first offense. Two non-licensees received administrative citations.
The objective of these undercover stings, which are conducted around the State, is to level the playing field for licensed contractors competing in the local business area, and to protect consumers from fraud, scam artists or worse. "Imagine the danger you could have put you and your family in if you hired the grand theft felon," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "We urge consumers to check out a contractor before they start working on your property. All it takes is a quick visit to the CSLB Web site or a call to our automated phone system."
By law, all contractors who perform work that totals $500 or more (labor and materials) must get a license from the CSLB. To get a license, they must demonstrate at least four years of experience, pass two exams, and undergo a criminal background check.
Most unlicensed contractors do not carry workers' compensation insurance on their employees, so they're often able to submit lower bids on jobs. But, if a worker is injured on the job, the homeowner could be deemed liable. And, if a deal goes bad with unlicensed contractors, the homeowner has very few options. California is also losing much needed tax revenue from the estimated $60 to $140 billion a year that changes hands in this underground economy.
Consumers can verify a contractor's license status 24 hours a day using the CSLB's Web site at www.cslb.ca.gov or by calling the toll-free automated telephone system at (800) 321-CSLB (2752). They can also download or order helpful publications, such as "What You Should Know Before You Hire A Contractor", free of charge.
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 checking on-line at www.cslb.ca.gov.
- 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 280,000 contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors annually.
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