Contractors State License Board Encourages Vigilance as Winter Storms Hit State
CSLB tips ensure home repairs won’t turn into costly headaches
SACRAMENTO — In the wake of heavy rain, mudslides, flooding and their aftermath, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) reminds California property owners to stay vigilant when it comes to contracting for clean-up or repairs. Sometimes what appears to be the cheapest solution to remove a fallen tree, fix a downed fence, or patch a leaky roof may not be the wisest choice.
Consumers can use CSLB’s online resources to check the license status of the contractor they plan to hire, and to get tips on home repair and improvement choices. Any construction job valued at $500 or more in labor and materials must be done by a state-licensed contractor. California Business & Professions Code requires all licensees to carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage for their employees and to purchase a contractor license bond.
Now that Governor Schwarzenegger has declared a State of Emergency in several coastal, Central Valley, and Southern California counties, anyone caught contracting without a California contractor license can potentially be charged with a felony and subject to up to $10,000 in fines and three years in state prison (Business and Professions Code section 7028.16). In areas that are not state or federally-declared disaster areas, penalties are generally misdemeanors.
"A state-licensed contractor is the right choice when looking for a legitimate, qualified home repairperson—especially in an urgent situation," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "A CSLB-licensed contractor who is skilled in the specific trade you’re seeking is not likely to leave you in the lurch when it comes to properly completing the job at a fair price."
For tree trimming and removal jobs where the tree is 15 feet or higher and the job is more than $500, the contractor must be state-licensed. Business & Professions Code allows a gardener to do incidental pruning on trees less than 15 feet and under a cost of $500 without a CSLB license.
Business & Professions Code requires all Roofing (C-39) contractors to carry workers’ compensation insurance, even if they do not have employees, to ensure that consumers are protected in the event of an accident or injury on the homeowner’s property.
CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips when soliciting bids from a home improvement contractor:
- Hire only licensed contractors, and ask to see the license and photo identification to make sure the person is who they claim to be.
- Don’t rush into repairs, no matter how badly they’re needed.
- Don’t pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment. There is an exception for about two dozen contractors who carry special bonds that protect consumers. Those contractors are noted on the CSLB’s website.
- Don’t pay in cash, and don’t let the payments get ahead of the work.
- Get at least three bids, check references, and get a written contract.
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. More information and publications about hiring contractors are available on the CSLB website or by calling 800-321-CSLB (2752). You can also sign up for CSLB e-mail alerts and follow us on Twitter and Facebook. CSLB licenses and regulates California's more than 300,000 contractors, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2009-10, CSLB helped recover nearly $42 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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