SACRAMENTO – On April 28-29 the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) conducted an undercover sting in Clovis targeting people contracting without a CSLB license. During the sting, CSLB law enforcement officers caught 12 people allegedly contracting without a license.
“Undercover stings targeting those contracting without a license are designed to protect consumers who unknowingly hire an unlicensed contractor.” Said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “Consumers are better protected when they hire someone who has been checked out by the state and has tested knowledge of home improvement projects.”
CSLB partnered with the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, the Clovis Police Department and the California Department of Insurance to conduct the operation. CSLB Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) members posed as owners of a three-bedroom home and invited suspected unlicensed contractors to place bids on home renovation projects.
One person placed a bid of $5,000 for concrete outside of a home. That bid is well over the legal limit for contracting without a license. In California, it's illegal for an unlicensed person to bid for or perform any home improvement valued at $500 or more in combined labor and material costs.
The 12 alleged unlicensed contractors gave bids for home improvement jobs, including painting, concrete, landscaping, fencing, and tree work. They will be referred to the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office for contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code (BPC) §7028). First-conviction penalties include up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines.
Three of the suspects who did not have the proper workers’ compensation insurance policies to cover those working for them are facing additional charges (Labor Code § 3700.5). As a reminder, contractors must carry workers’ compensation insurance if they have employees.
“Consumers need to use caution when hiring a licensed contractor, and make sure the contractor is carrying workers’ compensation insurance,” said CSLB Registrar David Fogt. “Without workers’ compensation insurance, a consumer may be liable for a worker’s injuries while on the job.”
If contractors don't have employees, they must file a workers' compensation exemption with CSLB, which is noted on the license record.
Three of the suspects violating workers’ compensation regulations were also issued a Stop Order – a legal demand to cease all employee labor at a job site until required workers compensation insurance is obtained (BPC § 7127).
Consumers can check a contractor’s workers’ compensation information by performing an “Instant License Check” on the CSLB website. This feature allows homeowners to search by license number, name, or business name to find individual contractor pages. Each page shows if the contractor’s license is active and in good standing, and it lists bond and workers’ compensation insurance information.
One contractor was also cited for requiring an excessive down payment (BPC § 7159.5). It is illegal for contractors to ask for more than 10 percent down or $1,000 for home improvement projects, whichever is less.
Eleven individuals may face a misdemeanor charge for illegal advertising. Unlicensed contractors must state in all ads that they do not have a license (BPC §7027.1). The penalty for violating the advertising rules for unlicensed contractors is a fine of $700 to $1,000.