SACRAMENTO – The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) has activated its disaster response support for residents of Amador, Calaveras, and Lake counties whose homes have either been destroyed or damaged in recent days by the devastating Butte and Valley Fires.
Property owners can access CSLB’s Disaster Help Center at www.cslb.ca.gov or CheckTheLicenseFirst.com to tap into helpful publications that can be ordered or downloaded. These include “After a Disaster, Don’t Get Scammed” and “What You Should Know Before Hiring a Contractor.” CSLB’s “Rebuilding After a Natural Disaster” video also is available on YouTube. In addition to the website, all information can be requested by calling CSLB’s Disaster Hotline, 800.962.1125, staffed Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or its 24/7 automated information line, 800.321.CSLB (2752).
CSLB also is warning wildfire victims to be wary of unscrupulous and unlicensed contractors who may solicit to rebuild their homes or businesses. Avoid rushing into any agreement or contract until you have verified with CSLB that the person is licensed for the type of work that is being offered. Remember: Construction work that costs $500 or more in combined labor and material costs must be performed by a state-licensed contractor.
CSLB investigators are already in the fire-ravaged parts of Amador, Calaveras, and Lake counties, educating fire victims, and looking for any signs of unlicensed contracting. Warning signs also are being posted. Anyone found contracting without a license in an area for which a state or federal state of emergency has been declared can face felony charges. Those convicted of unlicensed contracting in a declared disaster zone are subject to a maximum of 16 months in state prison, and a fine of up to $10,000 (Business & Professions Code 7028.16).
CSLB will join multiple other state and local agencies at Local Assistance Centers that are expected to be opened within a few days in the affected communities.
“It is heartbreaking that residents have lost so much,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi Christenson. “The fire victims need to be vigilant and protect themselves against predators who might try to take advantage them at their weakest moments. We strongly encourage homeowners who are looking to rebuild to first check CSLB’s website before deciding on a contractor.”
CSLB urges everyone to follow these guidelines before hiring a contractor:
- Avoid hiring the first contractor who comes along;
- Avoid rushing into repairs – get at least three bids for comparison and check references;
- Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see their license and a photo ID;
- Always check the license number on CSLB’s website at cslb.ca.gov or CheckTheLicenseFirst.com, and contact the business directly if you have any questions;
- Down payments are limited to 10 percent of the contract price or $1,000, whichever is less. (There is an exception for about two dozen licensees who carry special blanket performance and payment bonds; these exceptions are noted on CSLB’s website);
- Don’t pay in cash, and don’t let payments get ahead of the work; and
- Get a written contract, and don’t sign until you completely understand the terms.
CSLB also reminds residents to make sure their contractor pulls necessary permits and receives required inspections from city or county building departments for any construction, reconstruction, or installation of air conditioners, heaters, or water heaters.
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. More information and publications about hiring contractors are available on CSLB’s website or by calling (800) 321-CSLB (2752). You also can sign up for CSLB email alerts. CSLB licenses and regulates about 285,000 contractors in California, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2014-15, CSLB helped recover nearly $68 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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