Contractors Board Stings Unlicensed Operators in Rancho Mirage
More Than Twenty Arrested in Undercover Operation
RANCHO MIRANGE — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) hopes consumers will be more aware of the problems that come with hiring unlicensed contractors following a successful sting operation in Rancho Mirage. CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT), in cooperation with the Riverside Co. Sheriff, conducted the undercover operation last Thursday and Friday (April 28-29).
For the two-day operation, SWIFT investigators posed as owners of a home in the Rancho Mirage Country Club to solicit bids from those suspected of operating as contractors without a license. Bids were made on jobs ranging from painting and new carpets to replacing kitchen cabinets and window tinting. By law, all contractors in California who perform work that totals $500 or more (labor and materials) must be licensed by the CSLB. A total of 21 unlicensed contractors were stung, arrested and given "Notices to Appear" before a Superior Court judge to answer the misdemeanor charges. The violators could face a maximum of six months in jail or a $1,000 fine for the first offense. A second violation carries a mandatory 90-day jail sentence.
"Because many of these unlicensed contractors don't pay taxes or carry workers' compensation insurance for their employees, they're often able submit lower bids on jobs," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "While that may sound like a good deal for the homeowner, if a worker is injured on the job, the homeowner could be liable. Plus, without a license, there's no way to know if the operator has any experience. And, if a deal goes bad, the homeowner has very few options."
The objective of 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. "Take a few minutes to check out the contractor before you hire them," said Sands. "Investing a few minutes in making sure they can do the job could end up saving you thousands of dollars and a lot of headaches."
Before hiring a contractor, homeowners should go online or call CSLB's automated phone system to see if a contractor has a valid license. They can also check out the contractor's license history and get bond and personnel information.
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.
- Be especially hesitant when approached by someone offering home improvement services door-to-door, especially when they will use material they claim is left over from another job
- Verify the contractor's license by checking online or via CSLB's automated phone service at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752)
- Don't pay more than 10% 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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