CSLB Targets Illegal Tree Trimmers in Tulare County
Among those arrested is man recently rescued by firefighters.
SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) in cooperation with the Tulare County District Attorney's office is warning the public about the dangers of hiring illegal tree trimmers. CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) team has been conducting stings and sweeps in the Visalia area targeting illegal operators.
A recent CSLB sting operation on February 7 resulted in 17 Notice to Appears (NTAs). Investigators posed as homeowners and took bids on home contracting projects like tree trimming. When the unlicensed operators bid over $500, which is the legal limit for contracting without a license they were arrested and given a Notice to Appear (NTA) before a Tulare County Superior Court judge to answer misdemeanor charges.
Then, during a follow-up patrol on February 22, investigators found a man about 60 feet off the ground, swinging from a rope with a chainsaw trimming tree branches. He was ordered out of the tree, arrested and given an NTA for contracting without a license. The suspect, Ruben Cano of Visalia, was featured in news reports and a picture last November when he had to be rescued by firefighters after getting trapped 40 feet up a palm tree.
Unlicensed operators rarely have the training, insurance or know how to perform the job correctly. "Homeowners face serious consequences when they use unlicensed tree trimmers," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "There are some real horror stories about lawsuits, deaths and loss of homeowners insurance that can happen if there is an accident."
The CSLB urges homeowners to be careful before inviting any contractor onto their property or agreeing to have any work done. Ask to see their state contractor's license and go online or call CSLB's automated phone system to verify that the license is valid. Consumers can also check out the contractor's license history and get bond and personnel information.
Here are more tips for consumers 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 Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The CSLB licenses and regulates California's 308,000 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.
Tulare County Sting Operation
- Operation conducted on Wednesday February 7 with Tulare Co. District Attorney's Office
- Targets - illegal tree trimmers
- 17 NTAs for contracting without a license
- Plus 11 Administrative Cites: (for illegally advertised phone numbers)
Other violations include: illegal advertisements and workers compensation violations. The District Attorney's office may also be filing unfair business practice code violations. All suspects are scheduled to appear in Tulare County Superior Court on, Wednesday March 14, 2007.
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