Unlicensed Contractors Nabbed During Undercover Sting Operation in East Bay
Contractors Board Warns Consumers About Importance of Only Hiring Licensed Contractors
SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is warning consumers about the dangers of hiring unlicensed contractors following a successful sting operation in the East Bay area. CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT), in cooperation with the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office, conducted the undercover operation in the Walnut Creek area. The sting underscores the fact that illegal contractors are operating in the East Bay.
SWIFT investigators stung a total of 17 unlicensed contractors in yesterday's undercover operation. Some of the phony contractors requested illegally large down payments, provided bids well in excess of the legal limit of $500 and unlawfully used someone else's contractor's license number.
The SWIFT undercover operatives invited suspected unlicensed contractors to a secret sting location. When they bid on jobs including tree removal, painting, building retaining walls, pouring concrete and work on a wooden deck and were found to be unlicensed, 13 were issued Notices to Appear (NTA) in Superior Court. They could face a maximum of six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine for a first offense. 2 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 and scam artists. "It only takes a few minutes to go online or call our automated phone system to see if a contractor has a valid license." said CSLB Registrar Stephen P. Sands, "That one move can help save consumers thousands of dollars and a lot of headaches."
By law, the CSLB must license all contractors who perform work that totals $500 or more (labor and materials). Because of their non-compliance with the workers compensation guidelines, unlicensed contractors often submit lower bids on jobs. 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.
Consumers can verify a contractor's license status 24 hours a day using the CSLB's website www.cslb.ca.gov or 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 278,000 contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors annually.
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