Déjà vu is Costly for Unlicensed, Uninsured Tree Trimmer
Contractors State License Board and Kern County prosecutors crack down on underground economy
SACRAMENTO — An unlicensed tree trimmer who was already on probation for contracting without a license and failing to carry workers’ compensation insurance, pleaded no contest in Kern County Superior Court on September 26, 2011, to charges of repeating the same crimes. Francisco Carrillo Aguilar, 23, of Bakersfield, was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, complete 100 hours of community service, and will be on probation for three years. The mandatory 90-day county jail penalty (Business and Professions Code section 7028(c)) for a second conviction for contracting without a license was stayed, in anticipation of low-level offenders being transferred from state prison to county jails (Assembly Bill 109) beginning October 1, 2011.
Carrillo Aguilar was caught in a Contractors State License Board (CSLB) Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) sting on July 2, 2010. He had just completed his work release program following a first conviction for contracting without a license and failure to carry workers’ compensation insurance on March 19, 2010. California law (B&P 7028) requires a state contractor license for any home improvement project valued at more than $500 in labor and materials. Contractors are required to purchase workers’ compensation coverage for all employees (Labor Code section 3700.5) to protect homeowners from liability if a worker is injured on their property.
"We’re gratified that our partnership with the Kern County District Attorney is holding those who continue to violate state laws accountable," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Illegal operators put consumers at risk and also compete unfairly with legitimate, licensed contractors who follow the law"
CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips before hiring anyone to work on their home or property:
- Hire only state-licensed contractors and ask to see their license and a photo ID to verify their identity.
- Always check the license number on CSLB’s website at www.cslb.ca.gov or www.CheckTheLicenseFirst.com to make sure the license is in good standing.
- Make sure that the contractor has workers’ compensation insurance for all employees, and ask about liability insurance in case property damage occurs.
- Don't pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment. There is an exception for about two dozen licensees who carry special bonds to protect consumers. These exceptions are noted on CSLB’s website.
- Don't pay in cash, and don’t let payments get ahead of the work.
- Get at least three bids and three references for each contractor.
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. More information and publications about hiring contractors are available on the CSLB website or by calling 800-321-CSLB (2752). You can also sign up for CSLB email alerts. CSLB licenses and regulates California's more than 300,000 contractors, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2010-11, CSLB helped recover nearly $45 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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