A series of statewide stings and sweeps conducted by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) identified unlicensed activity in the California construction industry, putting consumers at risk.

During the three undercover sting and sweep operations in South Lake Tahoe, Salinas, and Redding, 142 legal actions were taken, primarily for unlicensed and uninsured practices.

From June 6 to 24, 2022, CSLB partnered with local law enforcement in those operations to target unlicensed contractors, with investigators contacting the suspects through their advertisements.

The suspected unlicensed operators came to the sting locations to place bids on projects including ceramic and mosaic tile, concrete, deck work, fencing, flooring, landscaping, painting, plumbing, sheet metal, and tree services. As a result, a total of 40 legal actions were filed and 32 people are subject to misdemeanor criminal charges for contracting without a license. Unlicensed contractors can face penalties of up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $15,000 if they bid or contract for work valued at more than $500.

Whenever there is a fire or other disaster that requires a contractor to work on a business or home, unlicensed contractors seem to come out of the woodwork, and CSLB is urging caution on the part of the owners.

One of the many ways unlicensed contractors can hurt homeowners is because they have not met minimum competency requirements, do not have a license bond, or carry workers’ compensation insurance, putting consumers at risk.

“Unlicensed individuals can be dangerous for consumers,” said David Fogt, CSLB Registrar. “Unlicensed contractors have not met licensing requirements, undergone background checks, and don’t carry the proper insurance.”

Fifty-three sweep operations of construction sites were also conducted in Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Kern, Los Angeles, Marin, Monterey, Napa, Orange, Placer, Sacramento, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Ventura counties that resulted in 102 legal actions against licensed and unlicensed contractors. Twenty-six of the legal actions were for unlicensed contracting and 38 Stop Orders were issued which halted all employee labor at active job sites where contractors did not have workers’ compensation insurance for their employees.

The enforcement actions were part of a nationwide effort coordinated by the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies designed to make consumers aware of the importance of hiring licensed contractors and the risks of using unlicensed operators.

“Nationwide enforcement operations are key to educating consumers about the risks of not checking a contractor’s license,” Fogt said. “It takes only seconds to find a contractor’s license information on the CSLB’s website to confirm they are licensed.”

To look up to confirm an individual is licensed, visit Find My Licensed Contractor.

During the stings and sweeps, six individuals were also cited for requesting an excessive down payment. In California, a home improvement project down payment can’t exceed 10 percent of the contract total or $1,000, whichever is less, and subsequent payments may not exceed the value of work being paid for. This misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

During operations, unlicensed individuals were given information on getting licensed and were invited to attend one of CSLB’s Licensed to Build workshops. CSLB also created a new B-2 licensing classification for home remodeling with the goal of promoting the growth of small businesses and increasing consumer protection.

For their protection, CSLB recommends that consumers get at least three bids and check references before hiring someone for a construction job. Consumers can quickly check if a contractor is licensed on CSLB’s online Instant License Check.

From the License Check, consumers can also view the contractor’s individual license page, which indicates if the contractor is carrying workers’ compensation insurance for employees. Contractors without workers’ compensation insurance should not have workers on the jobsite. Consumers can find a list of licensed contractors in their area by using CSLB’s Find My Licensed Contractor.