Would you hand over $7,000 as a down payment to a worker who, based on his word alone, promised to take on your home improvement project? That's what one unlicensed contractor requested from our California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) members who are investigators working undercover at the Contractors State License Board CSLB.
The investigators set up at a home in San Jose on February 27, 2013, and asked for bids on projects, including a patio project in which one illegal contractor asked for a $7,000 down payment. The legal limit is 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less.
"These guys get really good at getting you to trust them, they promise you a gorgeous finished project, even supply a few ideas of their own, but if they aren't licensed with the state of California, what recourse do you have when your $7,000 and the man with your money, disappears?" said Alan Barcelona, president of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA). "Our members who are investigators and enforcement representatives at CSLB do a tremendous job of preventing consumers from being ripped off. "
During the sting operation in San Jose, investigators caught eight people suspected of contracting without a license, including the person who asked for an excessive down payment.
Hiring an unlicensed contractor can open a homeowner up to a number of problems, including a huge financial risk should a worker get hurt on the job. Unlicensed contractors rarely have workers' comp insurance or liability insurance.
"Our CSLB investigators conduct sting operations throughout the state, from the Oregon border all the way down the border with Mexico and each week, they find another batch of unlicensed contractors, not only taking advantage of licensed contractors who play by the rules, but taking advantage of consumers as well," said Barcelona. "We hope they continue to push forward this. It's obvious they have no shortage of takers."