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Board Reminds Contractors They Must Hold License
To Work in Natural Disaster Areas

SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) reminds contractors that they must hold a valid California contractor's license, in the appropriate classification, in order to perform most work on homes and other structures damaged or destroyed in a wildfire, flood, mudslide or other natural disaster.

Some out-of-state contractors and unlicensed California contractors want to help with rebuilding in disaster areas. However, it is illegal and punishable as a felony to perform contracting work in a declared disaster area without a California contractor's license. Punishment may include a fine of up to $10,000 or up to 16 months in state prison.

The CSLB along with other agencies such as the Department of Insurance, local district attorney's offices, sheriff's departments, and the California Emergency Management Agency to conduct undercover sweeps in disaster zones, and check the licenses of contractors working or soliciting work in these areas.

"Some unlicensed contractors have good intentions and want to help homeowners rebuild." said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "But, the reality is, they must be tested and licensed by the CSLB to do so legally."

Anyone who contracts for or bids on a job that totals $500 or more (labor and materials) must hold a contractor's license from the CSLB. There are exceptions, including working as an employee of a licensed contractor or taking jobs that are valued at less than $500.

To become licensed, one must submit an application for review, verify four years of journey-level experience in the trade to be licensed (general, plumbing, etc.), pass a two-part examination (trade and business/law), secure a license bond, and provide workers' compensation insurance for employees. The entire process can take up to six months.

"The process to become licensed is in place to make sure, to the extent possible, that contractors have the qualifications and experience necessary to perform contracting work. It is not something that can or should be done overnight," said Sands.

A contractor's license can be verified on CSLB's Web site, www.cslb.ca.gov, to see if it is active and in the right classification for the work to be done. You can also check for legal complaints, the correct business name, address and workers' compensation insurance coverage for employees.

The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The CSLB licenses and regulates California's 300,000 contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors, annually. In fiscal year 2011-12, CSLB helped recover nearly $36 million in ordered restitution for consumers.