“Contractors Board operation cites 15 suspects for illegal contracting charges
SACRAMENTO – An undercover sting operation conducted by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) drove home the importance that consumers make sure a contractor is licensed before hiring anyone to work on any construction projects, and verifying the contractor carries workers’ compensation (WC) insurance for all employees. During the sting, 15 people were cited for alleged illegal contracting charges; nine of them did not have WC coverage as required by California law.
On April 18-19, 2017, Investigators with CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) set up the sting at a single-family home in Visalia. Investigators compiled a list of suspected unlicensed workers by searching through local and online advertisements.
Suspects were invited to place bids on home improvement projects. Bids ranged from $850 for new flooring to $5,500 for painting. A California state contractor license is required for any job exceeding $500 for labor and materials combined. Each person who placed a bid above the legal limit was given a citation for contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code (BPC) section (§) 7028). First-conviction penalties include up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines. Penalties are more severe with each successive violation.
CSLB investigators were assisted by the Tulare County District Attorney’s Investigations Office and California Department of Insurance, who cited nine of the suspects for lacking workers’ compensation insurance for their employees (Labor Code § 3700.5), which can carry a maximum penalty of up to a year in jail and $10,000 fine.
“When contractors do not have workers’ comp insurance it puts their workers and the home owner at great risk,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi Christenson. “If a worker gets hurt on the job, the homeowner may be liable.”
WC insurance must be taken out by a licensed contractor if they bring an employee, day laborer, or even a friend to assist them on the job site. The policy provides medical coverage in case someone is injured on the job, and also protects property owners from legal liability for a job site accident.
Licensed contractors who don’t have 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 for themselves whether they work alone or have employees, who also must be covered.
Each person who showed up to the operation was given a citation for illegal advertising (BPC §7027.1) for failing to state in their advertising that they were not licensed.
In addition to those charges, three men were cited for requesting an excessive down payments (BPC § 7159.5). It’s illegal for contractors to ask for more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less.”