SACRAMENTO - On December 10-12, 2019, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) conducted a series of coordinated sting operations in five California counties which resulted in citations for 46 suspected unlicensed contractors.
The undercover operations took place at homes in Placerville, Carmel, Reseda, San Bernardino and Bakersfield.
Investigators from CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) used newspaper and online ads as well as business cards to find people suspected of performing illegal contracting jobs. The suspects were asked to provide bids for home improvement jobs like painting, paving, flooring, tree trimming, insulation, concrete, and tile installation.
During the operation, bids ranged from $700 for interior painting to more than $18,000 for concrete installation. State law requires a state-issued contractor license for construction or home repair work that totals $500 or more in materials and/or labor.
“There are many reasons a homeowner should seek a licensed contractor versus one who is not licensed by the state of California,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “Licensed contractors have passed tests and background checks. In addition, the homeowner has more recourse should the project not be completed, or the work is shoddy.”
Consumers can check a contractor's license status by conducting an "Instant License Check" in a matter of seconds on CSLB's website by typing in the contractor's license number, name, or business name. The search results reveal whether or not the contractor's license is active and/or in good standing.
In addition to contracting without a license, 43 individuals caught in the sting could face an additional misdemeanor charge for their illegal advertisements. Licensed contractors must display their license number in all advertisements; unlicensed contractors must state in all ads that they do not have a license. The penalty for violating the advertising rules for unlicensed contractors is a fine of $700 to $1,000.
Eleven people were also cited for not having workers' compensation (WC) insurance, which puts workers at risk of not being covered if they are hurt on the job and exposes homeowners to liability for on-site injuries.
If contractors don't have employees, they must file a workers' compensation exemption with CSLB, which is noted on the license record. The exception is for roofing contractors, who must carry workers' compensation insurance, whether they work solo or have employees (who also must be covered).
Three others may be charged with requesting an illegally large down payment. California law states that a down payment cannot exceed $1,000 or 10% of the contract amount, whichever is less.
One individual was using a CSLB license number that did not belong to them. That person faces a penalty for fraudulent use of an incorrect license number.
STING NOTES (By Location)
Placerville (El Dorado County)
- 8 cases referred to District Attorney
- Suspects due in court February 10, 2020
Carmel (Monterey County)
- 6 cases referred to District Attorney
- One suspect emailed bid using license number that did not belong to him
- Suspects due in court February 25-26, 2020
Reseda (Los Angeles County)
- 5 cases referred to District Attorney
- Two repeat offenders cited in sting
San Bernardino (San Bernardino County)
- 11 cases referred to District Attorney
- 11 suspects may be cited for illegal advertising
- Suspects due in court April 15-16, 2020
Bakersfield (Kern County)
- 16 cases referred to District Attorney
- 10 suspects may be cited for no workers' compensation
- Suspects due in court February 11 & February 13, 2020
CSLB conducted these stings with the assistance of the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office, Monterey County District Attorney's Office, Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, San Bernardino County Districtg Attorney's Office, Kern County District Attorney's Office, California Department of Consumer Affairs Division of Investigations and the California Department of Insurance.