SACRAMENTO – A Contractors State License Board (CSLB), Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s (DA) Office and California Department of Insurance sting operation at a home near the Santa Cruz Harbor on June 9, 2011, netted seven people suspected of violating state consumer protection and labor laws.
Investigators from CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) and the DA’s office posed as homeowners seeking bids for home improvement projects such as roofing, painting, demolition, and general building. Those who submitted bids for more than $500 for labor and materials received citations from the DA’s office for misdemeanor contracting without a license. Those who claimed they had workers will also face misdemeanor charges for failure to obtain workers’ compensation insurance. California’s Business and Professions Code requires home improvement jobs valued at $500 or more for labor and materials be undertaken by a licensed contractor. The state Labor Code requires companies to purchase workers’ compensation coverage for each worker. Another section of the Business and Professions Code requires roofing contractors to have workers’ compensation insurance even if they certify to CSLB that they have no employees. Brian Mahoney, 49, of Santa Cruz bid for roofing work and did not have a license, or workers ‘ compensation insurance.
“Hopefully this sting will help educate consumers about the importance of checking that a person they hire to work on their home or property has the appropriate license for the job they are undertaking and appropriate insurance coverage for themselves and their workers,” said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. “It’s worth it for a homeowner to take a few minutes to check the CSLB website or call the toll-free line so they aren’t left holding the bag if the project is botched or a laborer is hurt on their property.”
The DA’s office seeks to create a safe environment for all employees,” said Santa Cruz County District Attorney Bob Lee. “We also strive to maintain a level playing field in a difficult economic environment by trying to prevent subjects who lower costs by not abiding by the law from undercutting licensed contractors. However, the ultimate goal is compliance, not punishment as we seek to have a large workforce of licensed and insured contractors in Santa Cruz County that can provide a reliable and quality work product that will benefit its citizens.”
CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips before hiring somebody to work on their home:
- Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see their license and a photo ID to verify their identity.
- Always check the license number on CSLB’s website at www.cslb.ca.gov to make sure the license is in good standing.
- Don’t pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment. There is an exception for about two dozen licensees who carry special bonds to protect consumers. These exceptions are noted on CSLB’s website.
- Don’t pay in cash, and don’t let payments get ahead of the work.
- Get at least three bids, check references, and get a written contract.