Contractors State License Board Urges Napa Earthquake Victims to Only Hire Licensed Contractors for Repairs
Anyone caught contracting without a state license could face felony charges and prison time
SACRAMENTO — The California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is urging residents of Napa Valley and surrounding areas to only hire California-licensed contractors if they experienced damage to their homes, outbuildings, or businesses following 6.0-magnitude earthquake early August 24 and subsequent aftershocks.
"Unfortunately, unlicensed—and sometimes unscrupulous—people show up after natural disasters and try to take advantage of victims at a vulnerable time," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Now, more than ever, homeowners need to be cautious about hiring reputable people to repair their property. It only takes a few minutes to check the status of a contractor license on CSLB’s website or by calling our toll-free telephone system."
A designated Disaster Help Center section on CSLB’s website, www.cslb.ca.gov or CheckTheLicenseFirst.com, provides helpful publications in English, Spanish and other languages that can be ordered or downloaded. These include “After a Disaster, Don’t Get Scammed” and “What You Should Know Before Hiring a Contractor.” CSLB’s “Rebuilding After a Natural Disaster” video also is available. In addition to the website, all information can be requested by calling CSLB’s Disaster Hotline, 800.962.1125, staffed Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or its automated assistance line, 800.321.CSLB (2752).
"After going through the fear and then the ordeal of property damage after earthquakes, the last thing people need is to be victimized a second time by unlicensed or unscrupulous scammers," said Sands. "Unlicensed contractors should know that they could face felony charges if they’re caught contracting in this disaster area." Punishment for a felony charge may include up to 16 months in state prison, and a fine of up to $10,000 (Business & Professions Code 7028.16).
Misdemeanor charges also are possible in addition to potential felony charges. Those carry up to $5,000 in penalties and/or up to 90 days in county jail. Subsequent convictions carry even stronger penalties, including a mandatory 90 days in jail. Construction site sweeps and undercover enforcement operations already are being planned in the quake-affected areas in Napa, Solano, and Sonoma counties.
“Always use CSLB-licensed contractors for any job of $500 or more,” added Sands. “Licensees have a minimum of four years of journey-level experience in the trade for which they are licensed, and have passed tests related to their craft and California contracting law.” CSLB licensees also are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance for employees (and themselves if they are C-39 Roofing contractors) to ensure the homeowner is not financially liable in the event of a work-related injury on their property.
CSLB urges you to follow these guidelines before hiring a contractor:
- Don’t hire the first contractor who comes along;
- Don’t rush into repairs, no matter how badly they’re needed;
- Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see their license and a photo ID to ensure they are who they say they are;
- Always check the license number on CSLB’s website at www.cslb.ca.gov or CheckTheLicenseFirst.com, and contact the business directly if you have any questions;
- 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 licensees who carry special bonds to protect consumers. These exceptions are noted on CSLB’s website;
- Don’t pay in cash, and don’t let payments get ahead of the work; and
- Get at least three bids, check references, and get a written contract.
CSLB also reminds residents to make sure their contractor gets all the necessary permits and required inspections from city or county building department for any construction, reconstruction, or installation of air conditioners, heaters, or water heaters.
The California Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs. CSLB licenses and regulates almost 290,000 contractors in California, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2013-14, CSLB helped recover nearly $51 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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