CSLB, Other Agencies Reach Out to Erskine Fire Victims
Investigators share information on recovery efforts, warn about unlicensed contractors
SACRAMENTO – California’s fire season has roared to life especially early this year, prompting the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) to rush a disaster response support team to Kern County to help residents of the Lake Isabella area whose homes were destroyed or damaged by the devastating Erskine Fire.
Investigators from CSLB and the California Department of Insurance (CDI) fanned out Friday over fire-ravaged areas, speaking with fire victims and looking for any signs of unlicensed contracting. They also posted signs warning that anyone found contracting without a license in a declared disaster area could face felony charges.
CSLB also will join other state and local agencies at a Local Assistance Center for residents that opened today in the town of Lake Isabella.
“This fire season has started altogether too early,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi Christenson. “But there’s always a common theme in the aftermath of these terrible events – predators who try to take advantage of fire victims at their weakest moments. We strongly encourage homeowners who are looking to rebuild to first check CSLB’s website before deciding on a contractor.”
CSLB reminds homeowners that construction/rebuilding work that costs $500 or more in combined labor and material costs must be performed by a state-licensed contractor.
CSLB recovery teams are expected to be extra-busy this year given the continuing drought conditions in the state. CSLB is one of the first agencies to respond during the recovery process after structures are destroyed from fire, floods, earthquakes, or any other natural disaster.
Property owners can access CSLB’s Disaster Help Center at www.cslb.ca.gov to tap into helpful publications that can be printed, or ordered from CSLB. 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 on YouTube.
CSLB urges everyone to follow these guidelines before hiring a contractor:
- Avoid hiring the first contractor who comes along;
- Avoid rushing into repairs – get at least three bids for comparison and check references;
- Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see their license and a photo ID;
- 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;
- Down payments are limited to 10 percent of the contract price or $1,000, whichever is less. (There is an exception for about two dozen licensees who carry special blanket performance and payment bonds; 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 a written contract, and don’t sign until you completely understand the terms.
CSLB also reminds residents to make sure, when the time comes, that their contractor pulls necessary permits and receives required inspections from city or county building departments for any construction, reconstruction, or installation of air conditioners, heaters, or water heaters.
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 CSLB’s website or by calling (800) 321-CSLB (2752). You also can sign up for CSLB email alerts. CSLB licenses and regulates about 285,000 contractors in California, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2014-15, CSLB helped recover nearly $68 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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