The California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) recently announced that it has joined forces with the contracting boards from Arizona, Nevada and Oregon, as well as the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies (NASCLA) to issue a nationwide consumer alert regarding the excessive illegal and deceptive ad postings on popular Internet bulletin Board websites such as craigslist.
This issue of Illegal online advertising isn’t new. CSLB has previously attempted to address the issue with craigslist in 2006 and 2007. As a result, craigslist has a link at the top of its “Skilled Trade Services” page to license information and to the California Department of Consumer Affairs website. The company also added an additional step into the ad posting process that requires the user to indicate whether they are licensed.
Regrettably, unlicensed operators quickly found a way around the requirement and now the process is virtually useless. CSLB has been unsuccessful in getting craigslist to address these concerns.  As a result, these illegal and deceptive ads give unlicensed individuals an unfair advantage and leave a bad impression of the profession with consumers.  Really, its a lose-lose situation for legitimately licensed and insured contractors as they cannot compete and consumers are led to believe they’re hiring licensed professionals only to find out later when their work is done poorly or incorrectly.
The CSLB did issue the following tips to consumers before hiring anyone to work on or around a home or business:

  • Look for the contractor’s state license number. California law requires it to be in all forms of advertising.
  • If the contractor doesn’t have a state license, the ad must state that fact.
  • In California, unlicensed people cannot take jobs valued at $500 or more (combined labor and materials).
  • Don’t be misled by unlicensed contractors who give you a business or “handyman” license number.
  • Before you call anyone for a bid, check the license number on CSLB’s Instant License Check on their website – CheckTheLicenseFirst.com – to make sure the license is in good standing, and that there is workers’ compensation insurance coverage for employees.
  • Contractors are required to have their plastic pocket license or Home Improvement Salesperson registration card with them. Ask to see it when getting your bid.
  • Ask to see a photo ID to verify the person’s identity.
  • Get at least three bids, check references and previous work, and get a detailed written contract.
  • Don’t pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment.
  • Don’t pay in cash, and don’t let payments get ahead of the work.