SACRAMENTO – In an effort to assist Erskine fire victims, who have been through a life-altering disaster and are suffering from incredible losses, investigators from the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) and the California Department of Insurance teamed up as part of a disaster response support team and headed to Kern County to help residents of the Lake Isabella area whose homes were destroyed or damaged.
On July 1, the investigators visited fire-ravaged areas, speaking with fire victims and looking for any signs of unlicensed contracting. They also posted signs warning that anyone found contracting without a license in a declared disaster area could face felony charges.
“This fire season has started altogether too early,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi Christenson. “But there’s always a common theme in the aftermath of these terrible events – predators who try to take advantage of fire victims at their weakest moments. We strongly encourage homeowners who are looking to rebuild to first check CSLB’s website before deciding on a contractor.”
CSLB reminds homeowners that construction/rebuilding work that costs $500 or more in combined labor and material costs must be performed by a state-licensed contractor.
"These teams of investigators provide very important information to those who must rebuild," said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. "I have to imagine that it is a sense of comfort to fire victims that these sworn officers are in their fire-ravaged neighborhoods, during their time of need, to protect them and be an extra set of investigative eyes. Our thoughts and prayers are with fire victims throughout California."
CSLB urges everyone to follow these guidelines before hiring a contractor:
- Avoid hiring the first contractor who comes along;
- Avoid rushing into repairs – get at least three bids for comparison and check references;
- Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see their license and a photo ID;
- Always check the license number on CSLB’s website at cslb.ca.govor CheckTheLicenseFirst.com, and contact the business directly if you have any questions;
- Down payments are limited to 10 percent of the contract price or $1,000, whichever is less. (There is an exception for about two dozen licensees who carry special blanket performance and payment bonds; these exceptions are noted on CSLB’s website);
- Don’t pay in cash, and don’t let payments get ahead of the work; and
- Get a written contract, and don’t sign until you completely understand the terms.
CSLB also reminds residents to make sure, when the time comes, that their contractor pulls necessary permits and receives required inspections from city or county building departments for any construction, reconstruction, or installation of air conditioners, heaters, or water heaters.