State Contractors Board Sting Felt Around the State
Massive Operation Rounds Unlicensed Operators
SACRAMENTO — Five locations around the State were targeted by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) in one week for undercover sting operations. The Board's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) is still chalking up the numbers of citations, arrests and fines from last week's activity. The following are results from weeklong enforcement operations conducted in Sacramento, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Napa and Kern Counties by the Contractors Board in conjunction with local authorities.
|Location/Dates (Feb.)||Agencies Involved||Results|
|SacramentoCounty/Elk Grove (Feb. 7-8-9)||SWIFT, Elk Grove Police Department, California Dept. of Insurance||20 NTAs, 6 felony arrests, 11 non-licensee citations, 6 licensee cites|
|Santa Cruz County (Feb. 9-10)||SWIFT, SC District Attorney, SC Sheriff||10 NTAs, 5 non-licensee citations|
|LA County/Redondo Beach (Feb. 8,9,10)||SWIFT, Redondo Beach District Attorney & Police Department||26 NTAs, 1 licensee citation, 17 non-licensee citations, 2 felony arrests|
|Kern County/Bakersfield (Feb. 7-8)||SWIFT, Kern County Sheriffs Dept, and District Attorney||23 NTAs, 3 non-licensee citations|
|Napa (Feb. 9)||SWIFT, Napa Police Dept.||7 NTAs, 3 non-licensee citations|
CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT), in cooperation with local law enforcement agencies posed as property owners and invited suspects to sting locations to bid on various jobs ranging from landscaping and masonry to concrete and painting. The purpose of these operations, which are held statewide on an almost weekly basis, is to highlight the dangers to consumers who hire unlicensed workers, and to educate unlicensed workers about California laws.
Operators who showed up and bid over $500. on jobs were given "Notices to Appear" (NTA) in Superior Court judge to answer misdemeanor charges of contracting without a license and for violations like illegal advertising. 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.
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 first undergoes a complete background check by the Dept. of Justice before being given a license. "Homeowners need to be careful before inviting any contractor into their house," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Always check out their license first." Also, because many unlicensed operators don't comply with the workers compensation laws, they often submit lower bids on jobs. But, if one of their workers is injured on the job, the homeowner could be liable. And, if a deal goes bad with an unlicensed contractor, the homeowner has very few options.
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 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 292,000 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.
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