Contractors Board Warns California Flood Victims Not To Get Soaked Twice
Important steps need to be taken before getting storm repairs
SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is warning California flood victims to use caution when hiring a contractor to repair or rebuild their homes and property. The CSLB has found that unscrupulous or unlicensed operators will try to take advantage of homeowners following a disaster. These con artists face can also face felony charges if they operate in a declared disaster area.
Consumers can protect themselves by using CSLB's resources to check a contractor's license status and history and by following a series of important tips. "Avoid the urge to rush into repairs with the first contractor you meet, especially if they show up at your front door," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Spend just a few minutes checking the contractor out with CSLB to make sure they're licensed. Protect yourself against those individuals who are out to make money off your disaster."
The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is also reminding contractors that they must hold a valid California contractors license, in the appropriate classification, in order to perform most work on homes and other structures damaged or destroyed by the recent California flooding and mudslides. Some out-of-state contractors and unlicensed California contractors want to help with rebuilding in the disaster areas. However, it is illegal and punishable as a felony to perform contracting work in a State or Federal declared disaster area without a contractor's license. Punishment may include a fine of up to $10,000 or up to 16 months in state prison.
Contractors working on any job - from debris removal to roof repair to rebuilding - totaling $500 or more for labor and materials must be licensed by the CSLB. To become licensed, a contractor must pass a licensing examination; verify at least four years of journey-level experience. California contractors must carry a license bond, and provide workers' compensation insurance for employees. A property owner's home insurance policy could be at risk if unlicensed laborers have an accident while performing home repairs.
Consumers can verify a contractor's license status through the CSLB's Web site at www.cslb.ca.gov or toll-free automated telephone system at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752). Find out if the contractors license is active and in the right classification for the work to be done. You can also see if there are any legal complaints against the contractor, if the business name and address are correct, and if there is workers' compensation insurance coverage for employees. Tips and publications such as "What You Should Know Before You Hire A Contractor," are also available at the CSLB by phone or on the Web 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 hire the first contractor who comes along
- Don't rush into repairs, no matter how badly they're needed
- Verify the contractor's license at www.cslb.ca.gov or 1-800-321-CSLB (2752)
- Don't pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment
- 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
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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