In California, it’s illegal for an unlicensed person to bid for or perform any home improvement valued at $500 or more in combined labor and material costs. The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) licenses and regulates almost 290,000 contractors in California and is one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In 2018-2019, CSLB helped recover over $49 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
As a consumer protection agency, its protection goal extends into warning and educating consumers about common scenarios used to scam or mislead consumers. Periodically, the CSLB sets up sting operations to catch unlicensed and other illegal activity. The Statewide Investigative Fraud Team members pose as homeowners and contact suspecting unlicensed contractors through their advertisements to perform drywall, concrete, fencing, landscaping, masonry, and or painting work.
Example Sting Operations:
- San Diego: Resulting in 15 people cited. Among the fifteen, thirteen were cited for a misdemeanor charge of contracting without a license. Two others were cited for working as unregistered home improvement salespersons (BPC § 7153).
- Fresno: Resulting in 16 unlicensed contractors being issued Notice to Appear in Criminal court citations for contracting without a license. Additional citations include not verifying the minimum experience requirements, not having workers’ compensation insurance, and failing to properly perform work for which money was received.
- Sacramento: Resulting in 4 unlicensed contractors rebuilding homes in a Wildfire disaster area. The four people face felony charges because the unlicensed activity occurred in a declared disaster area. The punishment may include a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 3 years in state prison, or both.
As a California contractor, protecting and maintaining your contractor’s license is vital to your success. The Law Office of Edward H. Cross assists contractors in defending against citations and/or threats of licensure revocation. California has many rules governing contractors’ work on residential homes (Important CA Statutes). The statutes require specific forms, notices, payment terms, and disclosures.
13 CSLB Tips for Hiring a Contractor in California
- Hire only California-licensed Contractors
- Ask to see the license.
- The license number must be on all ads, contracts, and business cards.
- Check the license number on CSLB’s website or phone at 800-321-CSLB (2752).
- Confirm the contractor has workers’ compensation insurance for employees.
- Create a personalized list of licensed area contractors using the Find My Licensed Contractor.
- Get three bids, check references, and get a written contract.
- Don’t rush into decisions, and don’t hire the first contractor who comes along.
- Don’t pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000—whichever is less.
- Don’t pay cash, and don’t let the payments get ahead of the work.
- Only pay for work as it is completed to your satisfaction.
- Keep a job file of all project papers, including correspondence and copies of all payments.
- Avoid making the final payment until you’re satisfied with the job.
Remodeling Licensing Options for Contractors updated 2021
CSLB developed a B-2 Residential Remodeling Classification last year. It is available to qualified individuals working on home improvement work, including bathroom and kitchen remodels, replacing cabinets, flooring, plumbing, electrical fixtures, and other home improvement projects. However, the work can’t involve structural alterations on loadbearing walls. Learn more about the B-2 license here.
The B-2 classification provides a pathway to licensure for many unlicensed people who are currently working on remodeling and small home improvement projects that don’t qualify for a B-General Building License because the contracted work does not include framing or rough carpentry.