Contractors State License Board Catches Nine Illegal Operators
Phony contractors targeted in Sonoma County undercover sting operation
SACRAMENTO Nine suspected unlicensed operators were caught during a Contractors State License Board (CSLB) sting in Rohnert Park on June 29, 2010, and CSLB is warning homeowners to be especially careful before hiring people for home improvement projects. The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office assisted in the operation.
Members of CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) posed as homeowners and invited suspected unlicensed operators to bid on projects including painting, fencing, landscaping, plastering, and tile work. If the suspects bid more than $500 for a job and did not have a license, they received a notice to appear (NTA) in the Sonoma County Superior Court to face misdemeanor charges of contracting without a license, and charges related to unlicensed contracting. California Business & Professions Code (B&P) requires a state contractor license for home improvement jobs valued at $500 or more in labor and materials. Four of the nine also face charges of illegal advertising. B&P Code requires contractors to include their license number in all advertisements. Those without licenses are permitted to do work valued at less than $500, but must state that they are not licensed in their ads.
In addition to contracting without a license, Bart Paul Pettijohn, 53, of Santa Rosa faces a charge of fraudulent use of a contractor license number. Pettijohn’s license was suspended for violations of workers’ compensation law and for a liability from the Employee Development Department in 2008. That license, which was for roofing, expired earlier this year. Pettijohn was advertising and bid to do painting work. He does not have a current, valid contractor license in the painting classification.
"Homeowners undertake a huge risk when they hire someone who is not licensed or someone who doesn’t have the correct license to repair or remodel their property," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "These illegal operators do not carry workers’ compensation insurance which can leave consumers holding the bag if these scammers or one of their employees is injured on the homeowner’s property."
CSLB urges consumers to remember the following tips when hiring a contractor:
- Be especially hesitant when approached by someone offering home improvement services door-to-door.
- 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), and ask to see a photo identification to make sure you’re dealing with the correct person.
- Don't pay more than 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less. There is an exception to this for about two dozen contractors who have special bonds for consumer protection that are noted on the CSLB website.
- 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 before your project begins.
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 at www.cslb.ca.gov. The 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 2008-09, CSLB helped recover nearly $36 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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