Complaint Process Against Licensed Contractors
Complaints involving a threat to public health and safety receive the highest priority. If CSLB is unable to settle your complaint, you may be referred to alternative dispute resolution resources.
CSLB also prioritizes complaints based on:
- The order of receipt;
- The nature and seriousness of the allegations; and
- Available CSLB resources, including budget and staffing.
Every written complaint is reviewed to determine if it falls within CSLB's jurisdiction. CSLB sends written confirmation that your complaint has been received. A notice also is sent to the contractor to encourage resolution of the complaint without further intervention by CSLB.
If your complaint is not resolved at this point, CSLB may ask you to provide additional information and/or documentation. If mediation is appropriate, CSLB will contact you and the contractor and attempt to mediate the dispute.
Small Claims Court / License Bond Claims
Due to current budget and staffing limits, if mediation attempts are not successful, the contractor does not have a history of repeated acts, and the estimated financial injury is less than $10,000, CSLB may provide you with information about how to pursue financial compensation through small claims court and through the contractor’s license bond. You can find additional information at www.courts.ca.gov. Just click on “Self Help” or check with the clerk of your local small claims court for more about filing an action. A Consumer Guide to Filing a Small Claims Court Construction Claim brochure which will assist you with the process.
Consumers are encouraged to provide CSLB with the results of a small claims court victory or a successful claim against a contractor’s license bond. CSLB has the authority to suspend a contractor’s license if they do not comply with an outstanding civil liability or bond payout.
Filing a Bond Claim
A contractor has an obligation not to commit any violation of contractor license law that is grounds for disciplinary action against the license. If the contractor does not comply with the conditions of the bond, a claim can be filed with the surety company.
Claims against a surety company may be filed by homeowners, any person damaged by a willful and deliberate violation of a construction contract, employees damaged by the contractor's failure to pay wages, or an express fund damaged as a result of the contractor's failure to pay fringe benefits for eligible employees. (A court case has held the express trust fund provision superseded by federal law.)
Consumers must file surety bond claims with the surety company that wrote the bond within specified time frames. The CSLB does not process claims against surety companies. Surety companies will investigate any claim filed against a bond, and the CSLB will investigate any complaint filed against the license.
A license bond is canceled 30 days from the date that CSLB receives a cancellation notice from a bond company. If a bond reinstatement notice is not received by CSLB or a replacement bond is not received by CSLB before the end of the 30-day period, the license is suspended.
To make a claim against a cashier's check you must first file a lawsuit against both the licensee and the surety that holds the cashier's check (Contractors State License Board Registrar of Contractors). CSLB can only make payment from a cashier's check under a court order. Once the lawsuit is filed you must serve CSLB with the summons/complaint. If you have already filed a lawsuit, you may be able to amend it to include the Contractors State License Board Registrar of Contractors.
If CSLB determines that the complaint requires further investigation, it will be assigned to one of CSLB’s investigative centers. The investigation will determine if there is clear and convincing evidence to support a violation of Contractors State License Law. The investigation may include interviews with you, the contractor, other parties to the contract and any other parties who can furnish relevant information.
CSLB administers two arbitration programs: a mandatory program for disputes involving alleged damages of $25,000 or less, and a voluntary program for disputes involving allegations of damage between $25,000 and $50,000.
Complaints must meet stringent criteria to qualify for referral to a CSLB arbitration program. CSLB staff will determine whether the dispute meets these criteria. To review these programs see the Mandatory Arbitration and Voluntary Arbitration guides or you can order copies by calling 800.321.CSLB (2752).
Violations of the law by a licensed contractor may result in a citation or charges against the contractor that could lead to suspension or revocation of the contractor's license. Citations may contain civil penalties of up to $5,000 and/or orders of correction requiring the contractor to make repairs to your project or pay you to hire others to do so. (If a disciplinary action is undertaken, the state Office of the Attorney General represents CSLB to prosecute the case. The Attorney General is not counsel for the complainant, but counsel for CSLB.)