Complaint Process Against Licensed Contractors
Complaints involving a threat to public health and safety, and cases where consumers have suffered a significant financial injury are given the highest priority.
CSLB also prioritizes complaints based on:
- The order of receipt;
- The nature and seriousness of the allegations; and
- Available CSLB resources, including budget and staffing.
Every written complaint is reviewed to determine if it falls within CSLB's jurisdiction. CSLB's Intake and Mediation Center representatives send written confirmation that your complaint has been received. A notice also is sent to the contractor to encourage resolution of the complaint without further intervention by CSLB.
If the complaint is not resolved at this point, CSLB may ask you to provide additional information and/or documentation. You also may be contacted by a CSLB consumer services representative (CSR). If mediation is appropriate, the CSR will contact you and the contractor and attempt to mediate the dispute.
If mediation is unsuccessful, the CSR may refer the complaint to the appropriate settlement option. These options could include referral to a CSLB arbitration program, assignment to an enforcement representative for investigation, or referral to alternative civil or dispute resolution methods. CSLB will determine the appropriate option, based on the facts of the case.
If the contractor's actions were not egregious and the contractor's history does not reflect a pattern of violations, the complaint may be closed with a warning letter to the contractor. A warning letter remains a matter of record and could support further action against the contractor if future violations occur.
If the CSR determines that the complaint requires further investigation, it will be assigned to an enforcement representative (ER). The ER's investigation will determine if there is clear and convincing evidence to support a violation of Contractors State License Law. The investigation may include interviews with you, the contractor, other parties to the contract and any other parties who can furnish relevant information.
CSLB administers two arbitration programs: a mandatory program for disputes involving alleged damages of $12,500 or less, and a voluntary program for disputes involving allegations of damage between $12,500 and $50,000.
Please note: Effective January 1, 2016, the required amount of a contractor’s bond increased from $12,500 to $15,000. This change is the result of Senate Bill 467 (Hill). This increase also applies to cash deposits filed with CSLB in lieu of a contractor’s bond.
The bond of qualifying individual remains at $12,500.
Complaints must meet stringent criteria to qualify for referral to a CSLB arbitration program. CSLB staff will determine whether the dispute meets these criteria. To review these programs see Mandatory Arbitration and Voluntary Arbitration or you can order the guides by calling 800.321.CSLB (2752).
Violations of the law by a licensed contractor may result in a citation or charges against the contractor that could lead to suspension or revocation of the contractor's license. Citations may contain civil penalties of up to $5,000 and/or orders of correction requiring the contractor to make repairs to your project or pay you to hire others to do so. (If a disciplinary action is undertaken, the state Attorney General represents the CSLB to prosecute the case. The Attorney General is not counsel for the complainant, but counsel for the CSLB.)
Small Claims Court
Investigation by CSLB does not guarantee restitution to complainants. If your primary interest is to gain restitution, you should pursue the matter in small claims court or consult with an attorney. If you are considering legal action to recover damages of $10,000 or less, CSLB can provide you with information about filing a small claims court action, or you can consult the clerk of the small claims court for information and assistance. Additional "self help" information can be found online at www.courts.ca.gov. If your damages are more than $10,000, you may wish to consult with an attorney.
If you prevail in a civil or arbitration case against a licensed contractor, send CSLB documentation of the disposition of the case. CSLB will notify the contractor that the license will be suspended if the judgment or award is not satisfied.
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