Illegal Contractors Caught in Central Coast Sting Operation By State Contractors Board
Undercover investigators pose as homeowners in Pismo Beach
Sacramento - The lure of easy money led more than two dozen unlicensed operators into a sting operation conducted by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) in Pismo Beach. The stings were held over two days (Wednesday & Thursday, June 21, 22) with support from the Pismo Beach Police Department, and the San Luis Obispo County Builders Exchange.
Members of CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) members posed as homeowners and invited suspects to the sting location in a residential area to bid on various home improvement jobs ranging from landscaping, cement and painting and tile. The names were gathered from illegal ads, complaints and lists of repeat offenders. The Individuals who showed up included a former gang member, a convicted arsonist and people who were caught in an earlier sting.
This is the second sting in the San Luis Obispo area in less than two months. The Board held a sting near Laguna Lake in San Luis Obispo on April 19-20 where 28 unlicensed operators were given a "Notices to Appear" (NTA) and two other individuals were arrested. This latest operation resulted in 26 NTAs, four administrative citations, and seven follow-up investigations. The Board conducts stings on a weekly basis in different areas of the state as an enforcement tool and as an opportunity to educate both consumers and unlicensed contractors about illegal contracting.
By law, all contractors who perform work that totals $500 or more (labor and materials) must be licensed by the CSLB. In addition, before getting a license, all applicants must undergo a criminal background check by the Department of Justice. "Homeowners need to be careful before inviting any contractor into their house or agreeing to have any work done," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Ask to see their state contractor's license and check them out with us first."
Many homeowners don't realize that unlicensed operators rarely, if ever, carry workers' compensation insurance on their employees. If one of them gets hurt on their property the homeowner could be liable. Plus, if a homeowner has problems with the unlicensed operator, they have very few options to go after them.
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; and
- Get three bids, check references, and 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 302,000 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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