Unlicensed Contractors Caught in Sting

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The Contractors State License Board say that 79 unlicensed contractors were caught in an undercover operation it called “California Blitz.” The agency’s fraud unit posed as homeowners in seven locations throughout the state in during a two-day period, July 17 and 18.

One was in Elk Grove, near where results were announced. The CSLB says unlicensed contractors generate 97 percent of the 20,000 consumer complaints they get each year.  Getting a license requires a criminal background check and passing tests to show knowledge of different trades and state law.

One of the biggest problems is overcharging for a down payment by unlicensed contractors.

“A down payment can be no more than 10% or a thousand dollars, which ever is less,” said agency spokesperson Rick Lopes.

Lopes said licensed contractors are bonded and must have worker’s compensation insurance to protect consumers in case of an accident.  He also said the CSLB has an arbitration procedure in case of disputes – but you’re on your own with an unlicensed contractor who may do shoddy work, or who doesn’t do the work at all after taking money from the consumer.

The sting comes during a time when housing prices are going up and many homeowners are fixing houses to sell, or are investing in upgrades.

Licensed home remodeler Marty Morse says a license and worker’s comp costs may add 3% to 5% to his job estimate. But he says he’s done many jobs repairing unlicensed contractor’s work. He also says that violating the licensing requirement may be a symptom of other problems.

“If they are willing to do that are the willing to actually do construction projects where they are actually cutting corners, and not building to code, which can be dangerous,” said Morse.

There are other dangers. The sting netted several people who had drugs and drug paraphernalia, a man convicted of attempted murder, and a registered sex offender.  They would not have passed the required criminal background check to get a license.

“Some scary people who you wouldn’t want in your home or possibly around your kids,” said Lopes.

While those caught up in the sting can get jail time and fines, the CSLB often works to help many them get licensed and comply with the law.

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1 Comment

  • Joe_Ando

    I have been a contractor for over 20 years and customers ask me all the time, "are you licensed and insured" Of course I answer yes, because I am. At the end of the project I sometime ask the customer if they check to see if I was licensed and insured, and I am amazed at how many of them say no. I always help educate my customers on the importance of checking their contractor before hiring. Most customer do not realize that they can get sued if employee or even the contractor himself gets injured on your property. If someone just happen to fall from a ladder and break their back on your property, and they are not licensed and insured, you could loose your home.
    My workmans compensation rates went up 17% this month. In monies, this ends to be $1235 per month per employee. If an unlicensed contractor was bidding a project, he could bid a lot lower than I could since he would not be paying these insurance, that as a contractor, I have to pay.
    I recently became A+ Certified contractor, through the Verified Contractor Service. They are an independant company that perform contractor screening for license and insurance along with actual customer reference checks of my work-credentials annually. I simply direct my customers to my contractor profile page on the website, so they can see all of my verified credentials. I also have A+ Certified stickers on my work trucks so people can identify me as being verified. It has actually helped me sell more jobs and I am proud to show them off. If you are not sure about who you are hiring, you can go to: checkacontractor.us this company will send you a free contractor report card on anyone with a business name and tell you if they are registed contractors.