Warning: Contractor Scams

“Seven people were arrested in a sting operation aimed at curbing illegal contractors attempting to do business with Tea Fire victims.” Meagher, Chris, Tea Fire Rebuilding Sting, Santa Barbara Independent Feb 8, 2009.

It is unfortunate that with the recent tragedy it is likely we will see an increase in a wide range of Contractor scams, as we have experienced in the past. Informing yourself on what is illegal or suspicious behavior can be the best way to avoid the pit falls.

Before you hire a contractor or sign any documents for repairs, the California Contractors State License Board offers the following advice:

  • Avoid rushing into repairs, no matter how badly they are needed.
  • Get at least three bids, avoid hiring the first contractor who comes along.
  • Be cautious about door-to-door offers of repair services and fliers or business cards that are left at your property.
  • Ask friends, family, and associates for recommendations about contractors they have hired.
  • Avoid paying in cash, checks and credit cards provide a record of transactions.
  • Even for small jobs, get proof that the person you are dealing with has a contractor license for the type of work that needs to be done.
  • Get a written contract that details every aspect of the work plan.
  • California  law  requires  that  the  amount  of  the  down  payment  for  any  one  improvement  project, other than for construction of a swimming pool, may not  exceed  $1,000 .00  or  10%  of  the  contract  price,  excluding  finance  charges,  whichever  is  less . 
  • If excavation work is being performed, such as sewers or basement walls, make sure a building inspector inspects the work before it is hidden from view.
  • The contractor’s bid is far below the bids you have received from other contractors.  The old adage “if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is” applies here
  • Authorities also suggest using contractors recommended by the insurance company and getting multiple estimates.

Check the contractor license through the state's Department of Consumer Affairs website at www.cslb.gov