After giving bids that exceeded the legal $500 limit for unlicensed contracting, suspects were cited for illegal contracting and other charges and ordered to appear in Monterey County Superior Court.
Investigators process a suspected unlicensed contractor during CSLB's January 30, 2014, sting in Salinas.
CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) held the operation at a single-family home with a large, empty backyard where investigators requested bids for various landscaping projects. The highest bid received during the sting was $15,000 for new sod and related projects. Suspected unlicensed landscaping operators were found advertising on online bulletin boards, including craigslist.org.
“Professional landscapers are not like gardeners who usually don't need a contractor license for maintenance or small, low-cost projects,” CSLB Registrar Steve Sands said. “You always should check CSLB's website to see if the landscaper bidding on your job has an active contractor license that is in good standing.”
All suspects were cited on misdemeanor charges for contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code section 7028). In California, all home improvement jobs valued at $500 or more (combined labor and material costs) must be conducted by a company or person with a CSLB-issued license. First-conviction penalties for contracting without a license include up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines. Penalties escalate with successive violations.
The six also were cited on a misdemeanor charge of illegal advertising (Business and Professions Code section 7027.1). State law requires contractors to place their license number in all print, broadcast, and online advertisements. Those without a license can advertise for jobs valued at less than $500, but the ad must state that they are not a licensed contractor.