Bradford R. Fenocchio
PLACER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY
10810 Justice Center Drive, Suite 240
Roseville, California 95678
For Immediate Release
Date: October 14, 2009
Public Information Officer
Assistant District Attorney
PLACER DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE WARNS
FIRE VICTIMS AGAINST CONSTRUCTION FRAUD
The Placer County District Attorney’s Office is cautioning victims of the recent 49 Fire in Auburn to be aware of unlicensed contractors who offer or submit bids to repair or rebuild homes or structures.
It is against state law for any person to do contracting work totaling more than $500 in labor and materials without having a valid contractor’s license, unless that person has been granted an exemption, the District Attorney’s Office stated.
Sixty-three homes were destroyed during the Aug. 30 fire that spread through nearly 350 acres in North Auburn, off Highway 49.
Because the 49 Fire was proclaimed a state of emergency by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, any violation by an unlicensed contractor for repair work could be prosecuted as a felony.
Assistant District Attorney Scott Owens said his office “must protect against further victimization” of those citizens who lost homes or sustained damage.
“This will include prosecution of unlicensed contractors who prey upon the unwary,” Owens said.
The Placer County District Attorney’s Office will partner with the Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB), which is planning to conduct sweep and sting operations in the Auburn area where homes were destroyed or damaged.
“We have posted signs throughout the burn area warning the homeowners about unlicensed contractors,” CSLB Registrar Steve Sands said. “If our investigators see people doing work, we will talk to them and find out if they are properly licensed. If they are not legitimate, they could be cited or arrested.”
Those caught contracting without a license in a declared disaster area could face fines up to $10,000 or imprisonment for up to three years.
The CSLB is warning citizens and businesses not to hire the first contractor who comes along.
“Take your time and protect yourself against con artists who will take your money and run – or (against) incompetent contractors who will perform shoddy work,” Sands said. “Hire only licensed contractors and check their qualifications with the board.”
Licensed contractors are required to carry workers’ compensation and bonds to protect home or business owners if something goes wrong, Sands said.
Contractors working on a job -- from debris removal to rebuilding -- totaling $500 or more for labor and materials must be licensed by the CSLB.
To become licensed, a contractor must pass a licensing examination, verify at least four years of journey-level experience and carry a license bond. As of July 1, 2005, all new licensed contractors have also had to pass a criminal background check.
The CSLB urges consumers to follow a series of tips when dealing with a building contractor.
These include hiring only licensed contractors and asking to see the license, verifying the contractor's license by checking online and by not rushing into hiring the first contractor who submits a bid.
The CSLB also cautions consumers not to pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less, and to not pay cash or let the payments get ahead of the work.
Consumers should always get three bids, check references and then get a written contract. Consumers should contact the CSLB if they have a complaint against a contractor.
More information regarding the status or hiring of a contractor or regarding how to file a complaint against a contractor is available by visiting the CSLB Web site at www.cslb.ca.gov or by calling the CSLB at (800) 321-2752.