Contractors Board Warns Butte County Wildfire Victims about Risks of Hiring Unlicensed Contractors
Multi-agency efforts underway to protect Wall Fire burn areas from repair/rebuilding scammers
SACRAMENTO - The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is warning Wall Fire victims in Butte County about the dangers of hiring unlicensed contractors following this month's devastating wildfire. Unlicensed or unscrupulous individuals often try to prey on victims whose homes were either damaged or destroyed. This week, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency (LINK) in the Butte County area affected by the Wall Fire. That puts enhanced penalties in place for those caught trying to contract without a license.
It is a felony to contract without a license in a declared disaster area (Business and Professions Code (BPC) section 7028.16). Punishment may include up to 16 months in state prison or a fine of up to $10,000.
Contractors working on a job-from debris removal to making repairs and rebuilding-totaling $500 or more for labor and materials must be licensed by CSLB. To become licensed, a contractor must pass two licensing exams, verify at least four years of journey-level experience, carry a license bond, and pass a criminal background check.
Consumers can protect themselves by using CSLB resources, including an Instant License Check, providing license, key personnel, bond, insurance, and disciplinary information.
"Although it's understandable that property owners want to make repairs or begin rebuilding quickly, it's important not to rush," said CSLB Registrar David Fogt. "Take your time so you can protect yourself against con artists who will take your money and run-or incompetent contractors who will perform shoddy work. Hire only licensed contractors and check their qualifications."
CSLB is already partnering with other local and state agencies, including the Butte County District Attorney's Office and Department of Insurance to target those trying to victimize homeowners a second time. The first steps include sweeps through the fire area, to educate fire victims, and post warning signs. In the weeks and months ahead, CSLB and partner agencies will keep a high profile in the fire area, with unannounced sweeps and possible sting operations. CSLB staff is also available to meet with fire victims at a Local Assistance Center set up this week at the Oroville Municipal Auditorium.
CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips when dealing with a building contractor:
- Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see the license.
- Verify the contractor's license by checking online at www.cslb.ca.gov.
- Don't rush into decisions and don't hire the first contractor who comes along.
- Don't pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000-whichever is less.
- Don't pay cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work.
- Get three bids, check references, and get a written contract.
- If you have problems with your contractor that can't be fixed, file a complaint with CSLB
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California 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 2015-16, CSLB helped recover about $41 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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