Under arrest white collar crime © Imageegami | Dreamstime.com
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California ran a sting that netted 12 contractors operating without licenses and the appropriate insurances. (This guy wasn't really one of them. He's just to add visual impact.) © Imageegami | Dreamstime.com

One dozen illegal operators will have their day in court following a Contractors State License Board (CSLB) sting operation in the Berkeley Hills on February 22, 23, 28, 29, and March 1, 2012. The individuals are suspected of contracting without a license, not securing workers’ compensation insurance for their employees, soliciting excessive down payments, using contractor license numbers not belonging to them, and advertising illegally. Inspectors from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office assisted with the operation.

During the operation, members of CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) sought bids for flooring, glazing, landscaping, and painting projects at the 2500-square-foot home used for the sting. The 12 who bid more than $500 for labor and materials received a notice to appear in court for contracting without a license in violation of Business and Professions (B&P) Code section 7028, and illegal advertising (B&P Code section 7027.1). State law requires that all home improvement contracts of $500 or more for labor and materials be undertaken by a licensed contractor, and licensees must put their state-issued license number in all advertisements. Those without a license may work on jobs valued at less than $500 but their ads must indicate that they are not a licensed contractor.

Four of the dozen who did not have workers’ compensation for employees will face an additional misdemeanor charge for violating Labor Code section 3700.5. CSLB Registrar Steve Sands said:

CSLB and the Alameda County District Attorney take the state’s consumer and worker protection laws very seriously. California homeowners considering hiring a contractor should review ‘Ten Tips to Make Sure Your Contractor Measures Up’ to learn their rights as consumers. Before signing a contract, always consult CSLB’s online instant license check to ensure the contractor’s license is in good standing and that they have workers’ compensation insurance if they have employees.

The CSLB also recommended:

  • 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 or www.CheckTheLicenseFirst.com to make sure the license is in good standing, and that there is workers’ compensation coverage for employees.
  • 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.

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