Solar Contractors, Others Feel Heat of CSLB Sting in East Bay
Seven busted in two-day undercover operation
SACRAMENTO — A two-day undercover sting in Alameda County has seven unlicensed operators facing court dates to answer to charges of unlicensed contracting and related violations of state contracting law. The Contractors State License Board’s (CLSB) Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) conducted the operation on September 14 and 15, 2010, at a home in the Oakland Hills, near the Berkeley city limits.
SWIFT was assisted by inspectors from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office and the California Department of Insurance. CSLB investigators posed as homeowners, seeking home improvement contractors for solar, landscaping, painting, flooring, and tiling projects. The seven who bid more than $500 received a notice to appear (NTA) in court for contracting without a license. California law requires that home improvement projects valued at more than $500 for labor and materials be undertaken by a licensed contractor. Five of the seven will face an additional charge for illegal advertising. State law requires that all advertisements for contracting services include the contractor’s license number. It is legal to advertise and perform home improvement projects for less than $500, but the ads must state that the individual is not a licensed contractor.
In addition to the court cases against these individuals, the Department of Insurance is conducting follow-up investigations to determine whether to charge or fine these unlicensed operators for failure to carry workers’ compensation insurance. State law requires contractors to carry workers’ compensation insurance for each of their employees. The law further requires roofing contractors to carry workers’ compensation policies for themselves.
Consumers should also be aware that in the case of solar installation and other energy-efficiency projects, many of the discounts and rebates provided by the government and utility companies require that a licensed contractor complete the work. Failure to use a licensed contractor with a properly written contract could leave the homeowner ineligible for these incentives.
"It only takes a couple of minutes on CSLB’s website or by calling the automated toll-free number for homeowners to check a contractor’s license and whether there is appropriate workers’ compensation insurance coverage," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Not taking these simple steps could end up costing you more than planned if you have to pay medical expenses for a worker injured on your property, or if you lose out on energy-efficiency incentives if your contractor is unlicensed."
CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips before hiring any home improvement contractor:
- Be especially hesitant when approached by someone offering contracting services door-to-door.
- Verify the contractor's license 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 to this rule for about two dozen contractors who purchase special bonds and are noted on CSLB’s website.
- Don't pay in cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work.
- Get at least three bids and insist on a written contract before your project begins.
- Contact CSLB if you have a complaint against a contractor.
The arraignment date set for those with NTAs is October 18, 2010, at 9:00 a.m. in Department 521 of the Alameda County Superior Court facility at 24405 Amador Street in Hayward:
AND CITY OF RESIDENCE
|53||Solar||Contracting without a license|
|Melissa Marie Mathew-Pannell
|26||Solar||Contracting without a license|
|Rolando Andres Godinez
|30||Landscaping||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Jaime Martin Navarro
|29||Flooring||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Alberto Muniz Herrera
|26||Landscaping||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Sandeep S. Gahla
|43||Painting||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Loreno Pablo Carrillo
|22||Tile||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
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, 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.
Sign Up For News Release Email Alerts
Please type in your email below and click submit.