State Contractors Board Springs Trap on Unlicensed Operators
Board Conducts Spring Cleaning Enforcement Sting in Carmichael
SACRAMENTO -- Two dozen people showed up at a house in the Carmichael area this week to bid on spring home improvement projects. Instead, they received citations and fines courtesy of the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) for breaking the law. Members of the CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) posed as homeowners and invited suspected unlicensed contractors to the sting house to bid on projects that included: landscaping, tree trimming, concrete, swimming pools and painting. The enforcement action was done April 11-12 in cooperation with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.
During this week's sting, two repeat offenders were arrested on felony charges of contracting without a license and other violations. Two other individuals bidding on tree trimming projects appeared to be under the influence and were found to be carrying trace amounts of a controlled substance. "Homeowners need to be careful about who they hire for projects." said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "If one of those tree trimmers had fallen on the job, the homeowner could be considered liable. And, if a deal goes bad with any unlicensed contractor, the homeowner has very few options."
By law, all contractors who perform work that totals $500 or more (labor and materials) must be licensed by the CSLB. In addition, anyone licensed by the CSLB after January 1, 2005 must be fingerprinted and undergo a complete background check by the Deptartment of Justice before being given a license.
Twenty other people were given "Notices to Appear" (NTA) before a Sacramento County Superior Court judge to answer misdemeanor charges of contracting without a license and for advertising violations. The charges carry 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. Several licensed contractors may face charges after unregistered salespeople showed up to bid for them on projects.
The CSLB conducts sting operations on an almost weekly basis to highlight the dangers to consumers who hire unlicensed workers, and to educate unlicensed workers about California laws.
Before hiring any contractor, homeowners should go online or call CSLB's automated phone system to verify that he/she holds 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 at www.cslb.ca.gov 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 a written contract; and
- 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 299,000 contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors annually. In fiscal year 2004-05, the CSLB helped consumers get more than $36 million in restitution.
Sign Up For News Release Email Alerts
Please type in your email below and click submit.