SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) reminds contractors that they must hold a valid California contractor license, in the appropriate classification, to perform most work on homes and other structures damaged or destroyed in a wildfire, flood, mudslide or other natural disaster.

Some out-of-state contractors and unlicensed California contractors want to help with rebuilding in disaster areas. However, it is illegal and punishable as a felony to perform contracting work in a declared disaster area without a California contractor license. Punishment may include up to 16 months in state prison or a fine of up to $10,000.

CSLB along with other agencies such as the Department of Insurance, local district attorney's offices, sheriff's departments, and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, to conduct undercover sweeps in disaster zones, and check the licenses of contractors working or soliciting work in these areas.

"Even if an unlicensed contractor has good intentions and wants to help homeowners rebuild, they are prohibited from doing so," said CSLB Registrar David Fogt. "You must be tested and licensed by CSLB to legally work in these disaster zones."

Anyone who contracts for or bids on a job that totals $500 or more (labor and materials) must hold a contractor license from CSLB. There are exceptions, including working as an employee of a licensed contractor or taking jobs that are valued at less than $500.

To become licensed, one must submit an application for review, verify four years of journey-level experience in the trade to be licensed (general, plumbing, etc.), pass a two-part examination (trade and business/law), secure a license bond, and provide workers' compensation insurance for employees. The entire process can take up to six months.

A contractor license can be verified on CSLB's website,, to see if it is active and in the right classification for the work to be done. You can also check for legal complaints, the correct business name, address and workers' compensation insurance coverage for employees.

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 2016-17, CSLB helped recover just over $47 million in ordered restitution for consumers.