CSLB Two-Day Sting Nets 27 Unlicensed Contractors, Repeat Offenders
CSLB, Long Beach police and prosecutors to cut down illegal, unlicensed activity
SACRAMENTO —The Contractors State License Board's (CSLB) Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) investigators conducted a two-day undercover sting to help root out part of southern California's underground economy. The operation was held on November 4 and 5, 2009, with the Long Beach Police Department and City Attorney's Office.
SWIFT investigators posed as home owners at a Long Beach residence, seeking bids for indoor and outdoor home improvement work that included drywall, flooring, welding, painting, swimming pool repair, landscaping, and tree service. Sting targets were sought from online and local print publications. California Business & Professions Code requires contractors to include their state license number in all advertisements. Anyone who is unlicensed may provide construction-type services for $500 or less in labor and materials, but must print in their ads that they are not state-licensed. Those cited in prior sting operations were also invited to submit bids. One individual was busted a second time for contracting without a license, another for a third time.
Twenty-seven were issued Notices to Appear (NTAs) and are scheduled to be heard in the Los Angeles County court facility located at 415 West Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach on January 27 and 28, 2010, at 8:30 a.m. Of the 27 suspects, 24 were cited for contracting without a license and illegal advertising. One of the 24 suspects was also cited for using someone else's contractor license number, an offense punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and up to one year in state prison or county jail. The licensee told CSLB investigators this was the third time the suspect had misused his number. Another one of the 24 will also face charges for obstructing an officer for telling a prospective sting target that the home was a sting house. Five of the 24 were additionally cited for requesting an excessive down payment. Business & Professions Code prohibits contractors from soliciting more than $1,000 or 10 percent down, whichever is less, unless they are one of about two dozen contractors who are noted on the CSLB Web site www.cslb.ca.gov for carrying special bonds to ensure consumer protection.
One licensee was cited for allowing another person to fraudulently use his contractor license number. Two other sting targets received NTAs for selling home improvement services without being registered with CSLB as Home Improvement Salespersons, in violation of Business & Professions Code Section 7153.
"CSLB is serious about cracking down on unlicensed contractors who don't carry workers' compensation insurance and bonds that ensure consumer protection," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Plus, they take away work from legitimate licensees who follow the rules and pay taxes."
CSLB offers the following tips to consumers who are thinking about hiring a contractor for remodeling, improvement, or repair work on their home.
- Be wary of those offering home improvement services door-to-door.
- Ask to see the contractor's pocket card license and a photo ID.
- Verify the contractor's license by checking online at www.cslb.ca.gov, or via CSLB's automated phone system at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).
- Don't pay more than 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less. There is an exception made for about two dozen licensees who carry special coverage to ensure consumer protection and are allowed to ask for more than a ten percent down payment. Those exceptions are noted on the CSLB Web site.
- Don't pay in cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work.
- Check references, and get at least three bids and a written contract.
- Contact CSLB if you have a complaint against a contractor.
In 2009, CSLB, which operates under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs, marks its 80th anniversary of protecting consumers by regulating California's construction industry. Today, CSLB licenses about 315,000 contractors. In any given year, complaints are filed against only 3% of licensed contractors. In fiscal year 2008-09, CSLB helped consumers recover nearly $36 million in ordered restitution.
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