State Contractors Board Teams Up With Central Coast Law Enforcement to Crackdown on Cheaters
SLO County sweeps target dozens of job sites
SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) teamed up with local law enforcement agencies to sweep through almost 70 construction job sites in San Luis Obispo County yesterday (September 14) looking for illegal activity or contractors breaking the law. The teams made up of CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT), San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department, Morro Bay Police Department, and San Luis Obispo Police Department swept sites in San Luis Obispo, Los Osos, Morro Bay, Cayucos and Cambria.
The good news is, the vast majority of contractors on job sites were licensed and complying with state law. This is in stark contrast to two undercover sting operations the CSLB conducted in San Luis Obispo County in recent months. In April, a sting operation ended in the arrest of 30 illegal operators. A similar operation in June in Pismo Beach resulted in the arrest of two dozen people, including a registered arsonist and former gang member.
Yesterday's sweep did result in three Notices to Appear to people contracting without a license. They will have to go before a Superior Court judge to face misdemeanor charges. First time violators face a maximum six months in jail and/or up to $1,000 fine. "Even though most of the contractors we found yesterday were licensed and following the law doesn't mean homeowners can lower their guard," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "There are still unlicensed operators out there trying to bid for jobs. These people can put you and your family in danger."
Dishonest operators will often underbid legitimate contractors by paying their workers under the table in case, not paying for workers compensation insurance and under-reporting their taxes. Homeowners don't realize that by hiring unlicensed operators, they can be held responsible for a worker who's injured on their property, withholding payroll taxes and making sure the job meets building codes. Past experience has shown that these unlicensed individuals who cheat in one area, often have other legal issues and may do substandard work, if any at all. Many of these operators get homeowners to pay a large down payment, then never show up to do any work.
The CSLB urges homeowners to be careful before inviting any contractor into their house or agreeing to have any work done. Ask to see their state contractor's license pocket card, as well as a picture I.D. and go online or call CSLB's automated phone system to verify that the license is valid. They can also check out the contractor's license history and get bond, personnel and workers' compensation insurance information. Also, by law, a contractor's state license number must be included in any advertisements, or it must state that they are not licensed. Those people can only contract for jobs under $500.
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)
- Never 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 CSLB would like to give special thanks to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff''s Department as well as the San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay Police Departments for their critical assistance with this sweep. "These law enforcement agencies realize that consumers can be ripped off for thousands of dollars or more by unlicensed operators," said David Fogt, CSLB's Chief of Enforcement. "By contributing significant manpower to our enforcement operations, they're serious about protecting the people of San Luis Obispo County."
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 2005-06, the CSLB helped consumers get more than $36 million in restitution.
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