SACRAMENTO – A joint operation between county district attorney’s offices and state agencies resulted in the identification of 14 individuals suspected of operating without a contractor’s license.
A Sept. 27 press release from the Contractors State License Board (CSLB), an agency that operates under the California Department of Consumer Affairs, said these individuals received a Notice to Appear in criminal court for this suspected activity after undercover sting operations conducted in September. CSLB, the California Department of Insurance, Yolo County District Attorney’s Office and Tulare County District Attorney’s Office worked together to “clamp down” on unlicensed contracting work happening in Yolo and Tulare counties, CSLB said.
“Performing contractor services without a valid contractor’s license is considered a misdemeanor in California and provides for substantial penalties, including fines as high as $15,000 and possible jail time,” CSLB Registrar David Fogt said in the press release.
Six of the 14 individuals are suspected of conducting their operations in Tulare County specifically. CSLB said that each suspected unlicensed individual provided bids on a contracting job — meaning work in the construction industry — that exceeded the legal limit of $500.
Under state law, only licensed contractors may take on or bid on any project that exceeds a $500 value, including the cost of materials and labor. The press release said the bids provided by the suspects ranged from $1,200 for a flooring job up to $13,000 for concrete work.
CSLB said some of the suspects also violated state law regarding how much a contractor can charge for a down payment before beginning work. Violating that provision alone could result in a misdemeanor charge with a fine of up to $5,000 and/or one year jail time.
Contractors may only request the smaller of two figures: $1,000 or at most 10% of the total cost of the home improvement project. According to the press release, the concrete bid asked for a $5,000 down payment, which is “well above the legal limit.”
The suspects may also face charges related to unlawful advertising practices. According to CSLB, licensed contractors must display their license number on all materials related to their business, including vehicles, ads and business cards.
The undercover operations also resulted in four work stoppage orders to halt work at sites where “contractors failed to provide workers’ compensation insurance for their employees,” the press release said.
Katherine White, CSLB chief of public affairs, said that there are steps consumers can take when working with contractors to ensure the people they are working with are legitimate.
Before hiring a contractor, a consumer should “check the license number on CSLB’s website to ensure the contractor’s license is active, there are no complaints and the contractor has worker’s compensation insurance (if they have employees),” White said.
Consumers should also ask contractors for at least three bids and references and take steps to put all of the transaction details in writing before signing a contract and agreeing to a project.
Once a consumer has chosen a contractor, they should be aware of the limits on down payment costs, only pay for the work that has been done and the supplies that have been delivered, ensure they are satisfied with the job before making their final payment and keep all project papers and receipts in case of any issues, White said.