, California Consumers Corner

California homeowners can find links in this section to the various pages on the Contractors State License Board. These links include both relevant updates as well as “important to know” when a consumer begins their search for a home remodeling or building contractor.

Checking your contractors license status is the first thing you’ll want to do. Either by license number or business name although the CSLB data base isn’t exactly great when it comes to returning specific names. You’ll often get a list of names and you’ll have to drill down to find a match. Knowing the number is your best bet to getting good information.

Check License
Business Name

Guides and Pamphlets for Consumers

Remember to look at any current or previous violations and if available how the contractor resolved the situation. But keep in mind that though this is a necessary formality, it isn’t going to answer all of your questions about the contractor nor does it guarantee you’ll be dealing with an ethical contractor. It bears repeating:

No history of complaints does not mean that complaints have been filed. The CSLB is bound by the Legislature NOT to disclose complaints UNTIL and unless there have been a number of repeated violations and egregious enough in nature to be referred to the Attorney General’s office. And that could be a number of years of bad behavior not just months. And it depends upon homeowners taking the time to file such complaints rather than go the litigation route. Those litigated are not disclosed by the CSLB and very often homeowners enter into a gag clause in order to obtain a favorable settlement. No one will ever know the real truth about an errant contractor and those are the complaints I get most often.

Review the information on the Contractors State License Board regarding hiring contractors, preventing mechanics liens, filing complaints, as well as the rest of their precautions for consumers. It’s important for California consumers to review all the information the CSLB has provided to protect your interests and to become informed. Keep in mind that once the damage is done, they can’t make it right. The CSLB can only do the administrative work including citations and revoking any licenses if it is merited.

But be forewarned: Contractors – revoked or suspended – will continue to work and even possibly sue you and lien your property. Contractors pretty much work autonomously so there are no real checks and balances, a frustration consumers have voiced when harmed by unethical contractors. Many homeowners at this point find themselves spending money and time on attorneys when they should be focusing on building their homes. Been there – done that, as many of you know.

The other problematic issue is the Home Improvement Contract. The CSLB has made some significant changes to the contract requirements that every homeowner and contractor alike needs to be made informed of and updated. This is a must read for everybody – for homeowners to understand their rights including having the contractor disclose whether he carries general liability insurance, and for the contractor to present a correct and legal contract to the homeowner. Without adherence, you’ve got loop holes open to “interpretation”. Get it right from the get-go and don’t be quick to sign a contract you don’t understand.

The caveat here is that most contractors don’t use the correct contract. This results in a contract with half of the required verbiage missing and nobody will know until problems surface and the homeowner files a complaint. The following is a excerpt from the CSLB newsletter (Winter 2006) that addresses the specific changes.

New home improvement contract requirements went into effect January 1 2006. The changes are designed to make contracts more informative to consumers, and easier for both the contractor and consumer to understand.

The new requirements create a contract document that notifies consumers of their rights and their contractor’s responsibilities. Following are some of the most significant changes for home improvement contracts:

• The contract must include a list and description of all documents required to be incorporated into the document.

• The contract must specify whether or not the contractor is exempt from workers’ compensation insurance requirements.

• Finance charges must be listed separately from the contract total and under a specific heading.

• The contract must specify the three-day and seven-day “right to cancel” begins when the buyer receives a copy of the written agreement.

• Requires statement that the contractor must provide Lien Release notices to the consumer on request after payment is made in the contract.

• “Agreed Consideration for the Work” is now called the “Contract Amount.” The same legislation also:

• Raises the down payment for swimming pool construction to $1,000 or 10 percent of the contract amount, whichever is less- the same as for other home improvement contracts;

• Provides a new notice about general liability insurance that replaces the previous notice required under the old law; and

• Allows for development of a “Service and Repair Contract” for projects that are $750 or less, when the buyer initiates contact. Under the guidelines, the consumer’s right to cancel ends when work begins.

New Laws – 2007

Summary of major changes to Contractor Law effective January 1, 2008.

2007 Fire Storm Links

→ Contractors State License Board Disaster Center

→ Contractors must be licensed in California to work in natural disaster areas

→ Contractors Board warns consumers about unlicensed contractors after disasters

→ Local Assistance Centers

→ San Diego County Recovery Information

→ SanDiegoRebuilds.com

More Links for California Consumers

• The Contractors State License Board uses our Contractor From Hell as an example of the latest changes in the laws for 2007 in order to quickly punish unethical behavior.

• What’s New at CSLB:
Press releases put out by the CSLB highlighting everything from undercover stings on contractors, law updates to enforcement issues.

• California Contractors Newsletters
Not just for contractors! Homeowners can learn and check up on a potential candidate whose license may have been revoked or suspended.

• Report Unlicensed Activity
Scroll down to the middle of the page and download the PDF file. Consumers and contractors can use this form to report illegal activit