Sacramento, CA (WorkersCompensation.com) - The Internet is flooded with illegal advertisements posted by unlicensed contractors. Though low price tags may be tempting, it is important that homeowners do more than compare costs when looking for someone to complete their home improvement projects. Investigators from the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) caught 21 unlicensed contractors during an undercover sting operation in Bakersfield. Sixteen out of the 21 people cited did not have workers' compensation (WC) insurance for their employees and one suspect was taken into custody on an outstanding arrest warrant.
On February 22-23, 2017, investigators from CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) searched through online and local advertisements to compile a list of suspected unlicensed contractors. Posing as homeowners, investigators invited the suspects to place bids on home improvement projects for a single-family home near Meadows Field Airport. Bids ranged from $1,000 for concrete work to $8,400 for installing French doors. Twenty people placed bids above the legal limit and received a citation for contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code (BPC) section (§) 7028). A state contractor license is required if the quoted value of the construction materials and/or labor is $500 or higher.
All 21 suspects who showed-up to the sting were cited for illegal advertising. State law requires unlicensed contractors to state in all advertising that they are not licensed.
Two thirds of the suspects caught during the sting were also cited for neglecting to purchase workers' compensation insurance policies for their employees (Labor Code section 3700.5). If a contractor does not have WC insurance and one of their employees gets hurt on the job, the property owner may be liable and end up paying more than they bargained for. Licensed contractors without employees must file a WC exemption with CSLB, which is noted on the license record. The exception is for roofing contractors, who must carry WC insurance, whether they work solo or have employees.
“It is easy for homeowners to get lured in by lower prices offered by unlicensed contractors, but it may end up costing more in the long run if the contractor does not have the proper qualifications,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi Christenson. “CSLB-licensed contractors undergo thorough background checks and are required to submit proof of workers' comp insurance if they have employees.”
Eleven of the bidders required an excessive down payment before starting work and were also written-up for that violation. It is illegal for contractors to ask for more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less (BPC §7159.5 (a)(3)(b)).
All offenders were ordered to appear in court on May 3, 2017, at 8:30 a.m. in Kern County Superior Court, 1415 Truxtun Ave # 212, Bakersfield, CA 93301.
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