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California licensing board targeting unlicensed contractors


California’s Contractors State Licensing Board regulates contractor licensing and operation. The CSLB has been cracking down on contractors who operate without licenses.

The Contractors State Licensing Board is the California state government agency that licenses contractors and regulates the construction industry in the state. The CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team, or SWIFT, conducts undercover operations to catch unlicensed contractors. According to the CSLB, SWIFT teams carry out sting operations weekly across the state. California contractors should be aware of the state’s construction laws and the extent of SWIFT’s sweep operations.

California contracting laws

California construction laws state that a home improvement project that costs more than $500 must be completed by a contractor licensed by the CSLB. A person who is convicted of a first offense of contracting without a license could face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. A second conviction carries a mandatory 90 days in jail. Contractors who try to seem like they are licensed by displaying licenses that were not issued to them could be charged with a felony. A conviction for that charge carries a fine of up to $10,000 and up to one year in jail.

The law also places limits on how much money contractors may ask for as down payments on jobs they do. Contractors may charge up to 10 percent of the job’s cost or $1,000 for a down payment, whichever is less. A conviction for a charge of excessive down payment is a misdemeanor, and also carries a possibility of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

Cracking down on fraud

SWIFT has been active in pursuing those suspected of contractor license fraud. In one sting carried out in Monterey County, six people were arraigned in May 2014 on various charges, including contracting without a license, illegal advertising, excessive down payment and displaying a license issue to another. An April 2014 sweep in Chino and Lake Elsinore resulted in citations for 13 people, three of whom had been cited previously.

The CSLB does not limit its investigations to individuals. The CSLB told a subcontracting company based in Canada to stop work on large construction projects twice in May 2014 because the company was operating in the state without a California contracting license.

Seek legal advice

California laws governing contractor licenses and operation are strict. The CSLB enforces those laws vigorously, as the many SWIFT crackdowns demonstrate. If you are dealing with issues related to contractor licenses, you should have the assistance of a skilled California construction attorney who can defend your interests just as vigorously. If you have questions about contractor licenses, speak with a knowledgeable California construction lawyer who can advise you about your options.

Keywords: construction law; contractor license issues; contractor dispute