A reader: I hired a contractor in June to remodel my kitchen. He gave us a bid and told us it would take 15 days to complete the remodel. I thought the bid and the time line were reasonable so I hired the contractor.
Through the process I found out that the license on the truck was not his. I should have checked on it before I hired him. It’s the middle of September and still the work is not done. So much for 15 days!
Now I’m getting the run around and it seems like I will never have my kitchen back. What can I do?
Action Line: The very first thing you should do is to report the unlicensed contractor to the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). According to CSLB, unlicensed contracting is part of California’s estimated annual $60 billion to $140 billion underground economy. These individuals do not pay taxes, have insurance or bonds. It is not unusual for them to be involved in other illegal activities as well. Go here for all the info you might need: fblinks.com/cslb.
The CSLB also tells us it is illegal for an unlicensed person to perform contracting work on any project for which the combined price of labor and materials is $500 or more.
CSLB works to curtail underground economy contracting activities and reduce unlicensed activity through construction site stings, sweeps and other enforcement actions.
In a complaint involving an unlicensed contractor, CSLB may issue a warning letter, a citation, or refer the complaint to the local district attorney for review and possible prosecution.
CSLB has limited jurisdiction over unlicensed persons and cannot require an unlicensed person to make repairs to your project or pay restitution.
Your next step is to get your kitchen completed. If the unlicensed contractor is not responding, he/she may actually be doing you a favor. You need a licensed contractor to perform the work. Check the validity of the license before you hire them.
So do some comparative shopping. Check out the contractors with BBB and CSLB. Get prices in writing. Make sure the contract includes a description of the work that you want done, the materials that will be used, and the total cost. It should also include the start date, when retention payments are due and the completion date.
Ask for references and actually talk to previous customers and view projects that they have done. Never pay cash. Do not pay more than 10% of the project or $1,000, whichever is less. Make sure the contract specifies the dates and payment amounts for the retention payments of the project. Do not pay in advance of the retention schedule, no matter what! Do your homework before you sign anything.
There are good, honest contractors out there who will give you a fair price for quality work. Remember that the cheapest price is not always the best price. Read here for more information: fblinks.com/unlic
Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 2600 W. Shaw Lane, Fresno, CA 93711 or firstname.lastname@example.org.