A sting last week in Madera netted 21 home-improvement contractors operating without a state license.
The companies received notices to appear in court in February 2017 on various misdemeanor charges, including operating without a state license, no insurance, illegal advertising and soliciting a down payment larger than what is legally allowed.
By law, anyone in California who offers to perform home improvement work exceeding $500 or more in materials and/or labor needs a state contractor’s license. Also, a home improvement down payment cannot exceed $1,000 or 10 percent of the contract price, whichever is less.
Investigators with the Contractors State License Board’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team, or SWIFT, teamed with the Madera County District Attorney’s Office and the California Highway Patrol in the operation that took place at a home near Madera High School.
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The investigators posed as homeowners and called suspected unlicensed individuals to solicit bids for work, including tree work, painting, installation of a new water heater, replacement of a garage door and replacement of a roof. The bids ranged from $785 to $9,880.
Of the 21 who were caught, eight were unlicensed tree trimmers.
“In many cases there’s a reason why these people don’t get a license,” explained CSLB Registrar Cindi Christenson. “Some suspects have a criminal history, a record of victimizing unsuspecting consumers, or some other reason why they’re trying to fly under the radar.”
One of the suspects caught during this sting recently was arrested in a Department of Justice operation for illegally modifying weapons. Five others were caught in previous CSLB stings; one for the third time.
First-time conviction penalties for contracting without a license can include up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines. Penalties are more severe with each successive violation.
If you want to make sure the person you hire is licensed, you can check the state’s website at www.cslb.ca.gov.