Phony Contractors Stung in Citrus Heights by State Contractors Board
Illegal operators caught in undercover enforcement action
Sacramento — The first days of summer were extra hot for more than two dozen would-be contractors who were nabbed by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) for unlicensed activity at a sting house in Citrus Heights. Members of the CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) posed as homeowners and invited suspected unlicensed contractors to the house to bid on various home improvement projects that included painting, plumbing, electrical and concrete work. The enforcement action was done on June 21 and 22 with help from the Citrus Heights Police Department.
During the two day operation, 21 operators were given a "Notices to Appear" (NTA) before Sacramento County Superior Court 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. There were also five felony arrests for offences that included outstanding warrants, probation violation and prior convictions for contracting without a license. A dozen administrative citations were given and two written warnings were issued. Three additional cases of licensed contractors aiding and abetting unlicensed individuals are being processed.
By law, all contractors who perform work that totals $500 or more (labor and materials) must be licensed by the CSLB. The CSLB conducts sting operations on an almost weekly basis, is to highlight the dangers to consumers who hire unlicensed workers, and to educate unlicensed workers about California laws. In this operation, investigators were targeting repeat offenders, subjects of complaints and blatant violators of advertising law. Contractors need to say if they are unlicensed or have their license number on their ad if they hold a valid California contractors license.
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 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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