5 Benefits of Becoming a Master Electrician

C10 Electrical California Contractors LicenseI found a great article on ElectricianTalk.com that discusses the benefits of becoming a Master Electrician. It provides some great advice and helpful information.

5 Benefits of Becoming a Master Electrician

Once you’ve worked as a journeyman electrician for a few years and gotten some skills under your belt, you may start to consider taking the tests to become a master electrician. The qualifying tests can be extremely difficult; some people take a month or more off work just to study for the tests.

Getting your license can seem like a full time job in itself, but it can definitely pay off in the end. The difference between journeyman and master can be seen on the job site, but the benefits of being a master also show before your first job as a master begins.

Professional Pride

If you take pride in a job well done, you’re probably the type of person who constantly tries to learn new and better ways to do your work. Leaning to do your job better can give you more confidence on the job. When you become a master electrician, you know you have the knowledge and experience to take on jobs most journeyman electricians can’t do. You can take pride in the knowledge that you’ve earned a special job designation and all its benefits through your hard work and gained knowledge.

Increased Income

While earning more on the job isn’t the only reason for becoming a master electrician, the typical raise in pay can help almost any budget. On average, journeyman electricians earn a little over $22 an hour as of July 2015. Master electricians, on the other hand, average almost $26 an hour. Masters have more responsibilities and have a more varied work schedule, but the raise in pay can be well worth the time and effort it takes to get the license. Depending on your company and the average pay in your part of the country, your pay can be much higher if your specialties are in high demand.

Professional Respect

On most job sites, a person who knows more techniques and can get the job done better is respected by his fellow crew members, especially if he shares this knowledge. Just knowing how hard it is to pass the master electrician’s tests will automatically cause most journeyman to give you some added props on the work site. When it comes to clients or prospective clients, your expert rating will automatically place you higher in their eyes than the average workman. They’ll respect your opinion about the proposed project and will be more willing to go along with suggestions you might make for getting the job done more easily or with a better result.

Job Variety

Apprentice and journeyman electricians do a large variety of jobs, so the job isn’t as dull and boring as some. Eventually, though, you may want to take your work day to the next level. In addition to the basic electrician job duties, a master supervises all the other crew members on the job. He orders supplies, coordinates teams to make sure all parts of the job finish at the same time and ensures that everything and everyone on the job site operates as planned. After you become a master you’ll also acquire the following responsibilities:

• Pulling permits for the job site
• Purchasing and providing supplies, equipment and other inventory for the crew
• Working with the site manager
• Conduct business and consultations with the homeowner or project owner
• Ensure that all safety guidelines are met on the job site

You’ll have less hands-on electrical work to do and more management jobs, but the new challenges will add an additional spice to your work day.

Job Prospects

You may be perfectly happy with your current employment, but that may change in the future. Company ownerships change hands, families relocate on a regular basis and the economy rises and falls. Becoming a master electrician is one way of making your job prospects much more secure in the future. Despite the extra cost of hiring a master, companies are almost always more willing to hire someone with more knowledge and experience than less experienced workers, especially in positions of high responsibility. It just makes good business sense.

If you get tired of working for someone else and decide to create your own company, it’s easier to  go out on your own if you’re the expert. Every new company needs to have a master electrician to supervise projects from start to finish. As a master, you’ll not only save money you might otherwise have to spend, your increased knowledge of the trade will enhance your crew management skills.

End of article

If you are interested in obtaining your C10 Electrical CSLB Contractors License, please let me know. I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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Contact your State Representative

If you are having problems with the Contractors State License Board (CSLB), you should contact your State Representative.

Contact your State RepresentativeBelow is a letter I received from my Rep back in 2013 in response to a complaint I filed. As you’ll see, they contacted the CSLB on my behalf.

My take-away from this letter is that they just repeated what the CSLB told the Rep’s contact person. And even though this was not the outcome I was hoping for, they still told the CSLB (in essence) that people are filing formal complaints. I should have pressed the issue more with the Rep’s office, but at the time the CSLB app process in place was new and there was no history to bolster my complaint.

It’s clear now that they are profiling applicants based on the classification they are applying for. I have learned in recent months that the CSLB is no longer using the term “critical classifications.” I believe they dropped the term because they know that it equates to an underground regulation.

Some people wonder that if by filing a complaint with your Rep, the CSLB will retaliate by denying your application. It would be illegal for the CSLB to do that, and they tend to fear the Legislature, so I think you should feel comfortable filing such a complaint.

Bottom line, if you’re having trouble dealing with, getting answers from, being harassed by the CSLB, you should contact your State Representative. Click here to find out who your Rep is.

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Cooley brochure

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Starting a Construction Business

Starting a construction businessStarting a construction business isn’t easy by any means. There is a lot of planning and steps to take. I’m going to attempt to break it down to the basics.

First, what business entity to choose. If you choose a corporation or LLC you’ll want to file your articles of incorporation with the Secretary of State (SOS). This is a service I offer, but if you prefer to use an online company click here.

Next you’ll want to obtain a Federal Employer ID number. You can get this number from the IRS using their online system. It will provide you with the FEIN in just minutes.

You will need to apply for a business license in your city or county. Here is a page of helpful information regarding business licenses.

If you are going to use a fictitious business name (FBN) you’ll need to apply for it in your city or county. Generally, the same government office that issues business licenses will also handle the FBN filing.

Opening a business bank account. You’ll need a copy of the filed FBN statement with you when you open the bank account. Unless you are using your personal name as your business name, the bank will not open a business account for you unless you have the filed FBN statement.

After the SOS has issued your corporate number, you can then apply for your contractor’s license. I offer a full range of license application services. Whether you need me to complete all of your documents for you, or just a review of the documents you’ve prepared, I’ll be happy to assist you.

If you are applying for a sole owner (sole proprietor) license, you can apply for your contractor’s license at any time. If you use your personal name for the business name on your contractor’s license, you will not need to file a FBN with your city our county.

Here is something that many new corporations miss… the SOS will notify the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) when the corporate number is issued and you will need to file a tax return, even if no business was conducted or if the contractor’s license was never issued. I have heard from people who formed an S corporation, received their contractor’s license number, but never conducted any business. They did not file a return with the FTB and they failed to pay the corporate taxes when due. When they tried to renew their license they discovered that the corporation was suspended at the SOS by the FTB for overdue taxes and penalties. I highly recommend finding a reputable CPA to help you.

To break it down….

  • Choose your business entity type
  • Submit your articles of incorporation with the SOS (if you’re forming a corp)
  • Apply for an FEIN with the IRS
  • Open a business bank account
  • Apply for your contractor’s license

As I said at the top, this is a basic list of what you need to do to start a construction business. It’s obviously more involved than this, I just wanted to give you the basics to get you started.

As always, I’m available to answer any questions that you may have. Everybody’s situation is different and I’d be happy to help you navigate through this process. Feel free to email your questions to me at ContractorLicenseService at gmail.com.

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Report Unlicensed Activity

CSLB Unlicensed Contractor stingThe Contractors State License Board (CSLB) states that unlicensed contracting is part of California’s estimated annual $60 to $140 billion dollar underground economy. These individuals and businesses do not pay taxes, have general liability insurance or license surety bonds. The CSLB also believes that it is not unusual for them to be involved in other illegal activities as well.

What can you do if believe that an individual or business is contracting without a license? And can I report unlicensed activity?

File a complaint using this CSLB Advertising Complaint for Unlicensed Contractors form.

What is illegal contractor activity?

It is illegal for an unlicensed person to perform contracting work on any project valued at $500 or more in combined labor and material costs. Besides being illegal, unlicensed contractors lack accountability and have a high rate of involvement in construction scams. Unlicensed contractors are also creating unfair competition for licensed contractors who operate with bonds, insurance, and other responsible business practices.

What should you do if you know that an individual or business is using someone else’s license number illegally?

File a complaint using this CSLB Advertising Complaint for Unlicensed Contractors form.

What happens if you don’t renew you license on time?

You will be considered unlicensed until your renewal is processed. During this period you may not enter into any new contracts.

How does CSLB process complaints against unlicensed contractors?

When the Board receives a complaint against an unlicensed contractor, it may issue an administrative citation or file a criminal action with the local district attorney’s office. In some cases, it may initiate injunction proceedings against the non-licensee through the Office of the Attorney General or the district attorney.

Citation

The Registrar may issue a citation to an unlicensed contractor when there is probable cause to believe that the person is acting in the capacity of a contractor or engaging in the business of contracting without a license that is in good standing with CSLB. The citation includes an order of abatement to cease and desist and a civil penalty of up to $15,000. Unless the board receives a written appeal within fifteen (15) working days after the citation is served, the citation becomes a final order of the Registrar. The civil penalty is paid to CSLB.

If the citation is appealed, a mandatory settlement conference may be held to resolve the citation. If the matter is not settled, the appeal will be heard before an administrative law judge. The administrative law judge submits a decision to uphold, modify, or dismiss the citation. The decision is sent to the Registrar for adoption. If the cited unlicensed contractor continues to contract without a license, the Registrar may refer the case to the local district attorney for criminal action.

Criminal Action

CSLB may refer investigations to the local prosecutor to file criminal charges. If criminal charges are filed, the unlicensed contractor appears in local court, which renders a final decision on the case. The court may order a fine, probation, restitution, a jail sentence, or all of these.

Injunction

The Registrar may apply for an injunction with the superior court of either the county in which an alleged practice or transaction took place or the county in which the unlicensed person maintains a business or residence. An injunction restrains an unlicensed person from acting in the capacity or engaging in the business of contracting without a license that is in good standing with CSLB.

If you are unlicensed and need help with your application or you need study materials, the License Guru is here to help.

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CSLB Gestapo Tactics

The CSLB may be taking notes (knowingly? or unknowingly?) out of Germany’s Gestapo playbook.

CSLB Gestapo TacticsWikipedia says, in part: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gestapo

“The basic Gestapo law passed by the government in 1936 gave the Gestapo carte blanche to operate without judicial review—in effect, putting it above the law.[13] The Gestapo was specifically exempted from responsibility to administrative courts, where citizens normally could sue the state to conform to laws.”

Here we are in 2015, and the CSLB has been acting in the same manner for years.

They create their own rules, laws, and regulations, none of which are subjected to judicial review. In effect, putting it above the law.

In a previous post I pointed out that the CSLB Spring Newsletter stated requirements that are not written in the law. Specifically, business name advertising.

In another post I discussed where the CSLB has been requiring out-of-state applicants to have their certifier’s signature notarized. Not written in the law.

Then of course there is the infamous “critical classifications” list. A list of specific classifications that are targeted and/or profiled and are subjected to additional review. The CSLB managers have told their staff that they can no longer use the term “critical classification.” Hmmm, I wonder why?

They continue to pursue this profiling by using the law that requires them to pull a minimum of 3% of ALL applications received for secondary review.

Pulling ALL “critical classification” applications is not a random sampling of ALL applications received. This is a prime example of the CSLB twisting the law as written in order to fit their needs.

The difference between the Gestapo and the CSLB is that there is no law that specifically gives the CSLB carte blanche. It’s worse than that…. they chose to enact these unlawful requirements on their own. No authorization by the legislature, nothing put to a public vote, No, they just make these rules as they go. Clearly, a State office that is out of control and in desperate need of being reigned in.

How long will the CSLB continue operating like the Gestapo of the 30’s and 40’s? Sadly, there is no crystal ball to provide that answer. All we can do is hope that someday the CSLB will stop using Gestapo tactics and will operate with transparency and within the law.

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CSLB Spring 2015 Newsletter Part 2

In this edition of the CSLB Spring 2015 Newsletter part 2 I’ll discuss advertising rules for contractors.

On this page of the newsletter the CSLB discusses advertising rules. What caught my eye were two things.

Polar Solar CSLB newsletter1) The image they used in the article was taken in front of the CSLB headquarters building. I looked up the business name and found one company called Polar Solar Inc. located in Tarzana, Ca.

I thought, why would a SoCal contractor be at the CSLB HQ building. So I blew up the image and could see they used a fictitious phone number and a license number of 123456. I’m assuming they did this just as an example of the font size required by law. But I think they should have used an actual contractors vehicle ad to give a real world example. Perhaps they chose not to because they felt they were giving free advertising to an actual contractor. Either way, I think a real world example would have been more appropriate.

____________________________________________________________

I was recently asked by an applicant if he could advertise his business name (John Doe Construction) as JD Construction. This brings me to the second topic

2) The article states: “Also, remember that licensees must list the name of their business exactly as it appears in CSLB records for any advertisement, bid, or contract. Name style variations are not allowed. Contracts must be in the same form and type as specified in B&P Code section 7159.” I did not add the bold text, that’s exactly how it was printed in the newsletter.

I remember looking up advertising rules for the applicant mentioned above and I thought… “exactly as it appears”?? I don’t recall reading that in the law. So I did an extensive search of my contractors license law pdf using the search terms “exactly as it appears”, “business name”,  “advertising”, and “name style” and could find nothing that states the licensees business name had to be “exactly as it appears.”

B&P Code section 7059.1 Misleading or incompatible use of name styles, does not use any language that refers to “exactly as it appears.”

The above statement references B&P Code section 7159, that section also does not use the language “exactly as it appears” anywhere in the section.

So maybe the hour + I spent doing research wasn’t enough, maybe I somehow missed something, or maybe the CSLB is once again attempting to enforce something that doesn’t exist in the law as written. If it is in the law somewhere, and you find it, please share the law, regulation, or code section with me.

If you are a new follower to my blog or a long time reader, I may come across as overly critical of the Contractors State License Board. I don’t want to mislead you… I am! I am because the CSLB is overly critical of profiled applicants, of it’s employee’s, and of the industry overall. Somebody has to call it like it is.

If you want to read the entire CSLB Spring 2015 Newsletter, click here.

I’ve uploaded the Contractors License Law pdf here if you’d like to read it as well.

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CSLB Spring 2015 Newsletter

The CSLB Spring 2015 Newsletter was sent out today.

Here are my highlights… or lowlights.

CSLBs Illegal Critical ClassificationsIn the Chair’s opening statement he said: “You can expect CSLB to continue its vigorous regulation of California’s construction industry, and to aggressively pursue unlicensed contractors and unscrupulous businesses through sting operations, construction site sweeps, and other strategies. We want to build more partnerships with licensees, industry groups, and government agencies to present a united front against individuals and businesses who try to hide from state laws or take advantage of consumers.”

Once again, they’re missing the bigger picture. Cause and effect, if you will. “…vigorous regulation of California’s construction industry, and to aggressively pursue unlicensed contractors…” The Contractors State License Board is playing a HUGE part in creating the large amount of unlicensed contractors with their “vigorous regulations.”

For over two years now they have been putting applicants through the wringer with their “profiling” of specific applications. They continue to quote the regulation that requires them to perform a secondary review of at least three percent of all apps received. What I’m hoping/praying will happen is that the State Legislature or an attorney will finally call the CSLB to the mat on this.

They are not randomly selecting applications as the law states, they specifically profiling and targeting these classifications. Last week I was told by a CSLB employee that they should no longer use the term “critical classifications.” I guess they realized that using this term was illegal. DUH!!! They can’t just decide on the whim of a single power hungry CSLB employee to profile specific individuals.

That’s all for now. More later.

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Sumner Insurance Services Review

Sumner Insurance Services Bad ReviewDo NOT use Sumner Insurance Services in Upland California!

Sumner Insurance Services Review

They do not cancel policies after receiving a signed written request. They cancel policies they have no authority to cancel. They continue to collect premiums and fees on policies they were suppose to cancel. Their communication with clients is pathetic.

After I found out they didn’t cancel my renters policy in December 2014 when I bought a home and purchased a homeowners policy, I then received a letter (yesterday) stating they cancelled my HO policy (notifying my mortgage company) instead of the auto policy I requested to be cancelled (with a specific, signed faxed letter).

The shear incompetence of this agency is astounding! Collecting premiums and fees on a policy that was supposed to be cancelled 4 months ago is a violation of California law. I will be filing a complaint with the Dept. of Insurance insurance.ca.gov.

I spent 45 minutes on the phone with a very nice rep at Allied insurance. She was able to un-do everything this bumbling group of idiots managed to create.

Do yourself a favor, find another agency or deal direct with the insurance company!

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CSLB Continues Underground Economy

CSLB Underground EconomyThe CSLB continues underground economy by making the requirements to obtain a license more restrictive.

They like to taut their sting operations and talk about where the “illegal contractors” are coming from. But what they aren’t talking about is how they are clamping down on what they will and will not accept as experience.

I was told recently by a CSLB employee that those in power are considering restricting who can be a certifier. It was suggested that they may only accept certifier’s who are contractors and/or contractor employers. They would no longer accept clients as certifiers or business associates as certifiers.

IF they do this, they better go thru the legislature because the law states who can be a certifier. The CSLB track record since Rick Villucci gained power is to do whatever they want without getting legislative approval.

Remember the “critical classifications” as the CSLB called them? CSLB staff has been directed to no longer use that term. Why? Because the Rick Villucci regime did not have the legal authority to segregate (profile) applications based on the trade that was being applied for.

Here’s a recent press release from the Contractors State License Board…

CSLB Drives Home Message to Unlicensed Contractors in Ventura County

Nearly 70 percent of illegal contractors from outside of county during two-day Moorpark sting 

SACRAMENTO  – Unlicensed contractors won’t let a long drive dissuade them from trying to steal work from legitimate contractors. A sting operation conducted in Moorpark last week by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) once again showed that to be true. Ten of the 14 individuals cited for illegal contracting came from outside of the area, including the outer reaches of Los Angeles County.

“Unlicensed contractors will beat a path to your door if they think there’s a big paycheck in it for them,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi Christenson. “Many times, they will turn in very low bids to get the job. But homeowners take big risks if they fall into that trap. Always remember to check CSLB’s website to see if the person you plan to hire is licensed and in good standing.”

Investigators from CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT), assisted by Ventura County Sheriff’s Office deputies, held the sting at a ranch-style home near Moorpark College on April 8 and 9, 2015. Seven unlicensed contractors were caught each day and were given Notices to Appear in Ventura County Superior Court on charges of misdemeanor illegal contracting.

“The Moorpark Police Department and Ventura County Sheriff’s Office appreciate our partnership with the Contractors State License Board,” said Captain John Reilly of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. “Our joint efforts in this operation send a clear message that unlicensed contractors operating in Ventura County will be targeted and prosecuted.”

SWIFT investigators used tips from a variety of sources, including the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, a nearby city building department, and a state agency, to create a list of suspected unlicensed contractors who might be interested in submitting a home improvement bid. Project bids were given to investigators for installation of a tankless water heater, installation of vinyl fencing, flooring, tree removal, and interior painting.

All suspects turned in bids that were in excess of the limit allowed by state contracting laws. Any project that is $500 or more in combined labor and material costs must be performed by a state-licensed contractor, per Business and Professions Code section 7028. The highest bid, for the vinyl fence, was for $10,000; most were in the $2,000-$5,000 range.

All 14 suspects were cited for contracting without a license, as well as an additional charge of illegal advertising (Business and Professions Code section 7027.1). State law prohibits unlicensed contractors from advertising for construction-related work valued at $500 or more, although they can advertise for jobs below that amount if the ad states that they are not licensed.

First-conviction penalties for contracting without a license include up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines. Penalties are more severe with each successive violation.

Suspects have a court date of either June 17 or June 18, 2015, in Ventura County Superior Court, 800 South Victoria Avenue, Ventura CA 90039.

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What You Need to Know About Enforcement Actions by the Contractors State License Board

What You Need to Know About Enforcement Actions by the Contractors State License Board

I questioned whether to even write this post.

Because, of course, YOU would never find yourself hightailing it out of town  with the California Contractor’s State License Board (“CSLB”) sniffing down your tail pipes.

Then again, mistaken identities occur all the time. So, here’s what you need to know if the CSLB mistakes you for one of “those” contractors.

What violations are subject to CSLB enforcement actions?

The CSLB can take enforcement actions based on any one of numerous violations set forth under the California Business and Professions Code (“B&P Code”), including:

  1. B&P Code §7107: Abandonment of a construction project or operation without legal excuse.
  2. B&P Code §7108: Diversion or misapplication of funds or property received for prosecution or completion of a construction project or operation.
  3. B&P Code §7108.5: Failure to pay a subcontractor not later than 7 days after receipt of each progress payment, unless otherwise agreed to in writing or in the absence of a good faith dispute over the amount due.
  4. B&P Code §7108.6: Failure to pay transportation charged submitted by a dump truck carrier, unless otherwise agreed to in writing or in the absence of a good faith dispute over the charges claimed.
  5. B&P Code §7109: Willful departure from or disregard of accepted trade standards or plans and specifications.
  6. B&P Code §7109.5: Violation of a safety provision under the California Labor Code (Labor Code section 6300 et seq.) resulting in death or serious injury to an employee.
  7.  B&P Code §7110: Willful or deliberate disregard of building, safety, labor, workers compensation, unemployment, the Subletting and Subcontracting Fair Practices Act, or violation of the California Health and Safety Code or California Water Code relating to digging, boring, or drilling of water wells.
  8. B&P Code §7110.1: Requiring a release from an unpaid laborer in violation of the California Labor Code (Labor Code section 206.5).
  9. B&P Code §7110.5: Being found by the California Labor Commissioner to have willful or deliberately violated the Labor Code.
  10. B&P Code §7111: Failure to make and keep records showing all contracts, documents, records, receipts and disbursements for a period of 5 years after completion of a construction project or operation.
  11. B&P Code §7111.1: Failure or refusal to respond to a written request by the CSLB to cooperate in the investigation of a complaint against the licensee.
  12. B&P Code §§7112 and 7112.1: Omitting or misrepresenting a material fact when obtaining or renewing a license or adding a classification to an existing license.
  13. B&P Code §7113: Failing to complete a construction project or operation for the price stated in the contract or in any modification to the contract.
  14. B&P Code §7113.5: Avoiding or settling of an obligation for less than the full amount through: (a) composition, arrangement, or reorganization with creditors under state law; (b) composition, arrangement, or reorganization with creditors under any agreement or understanding; (c) receivership; (d) assignment for the benefit of creditors; (e) trusteeship; or (f) dissolution, unless discharged or settled in bankruptcy under federal law.
  15. B&P Code §7114: Aiding or abetting an unlicensed person with an intent to evade the License Law.
  16. B&P Code §7114.1: Signing a falsified certificate of experience or certifying false or misleading experience.
  17. B&P Code §7114.2: Displaying a canceled, revoked, suspended, or fraudulently altered license, using a fictitious license or document simulating a license, lending a license to another person, or knowingly permitting the unlawful use of a license.
  18. B&P Code §7115: Failure to comply with the License Law or engaging in collusion under California Public Contracts Code section 7106.
  19. B&P Code §7116: Willfully or fraudulently injuring another.
  20. B&P Code §7116.5: Engaging in conduct that subverts or attempts to subvert an investigation by the CSLB.
  21. B&P Code §7117: Acting in the capacity of a contractor under a license that is not his or hers or with personnel not identified under the license.
  22. B&P Code §7117.5: Acting in the capacity of a contractor under an inactive, suspended, or expired license.
  23. B&P Code §7117.6: Acting in the capacity of a contractor in a classification other than a classification currently held.
  24. B&P Code §7118: Entering into a contract with an unlicensed contractor.
  25. B&P Code §7118.4: Failure, by a contractor who has made an inspection to determine the presence of asbestos, to disclose orally and in writing that there is an ownership or financial relationship with a contractor performing corrective work.
  26. B&P Code §7118.5: Knowingly or negligently entering into a contract with a person who is not certified to engage in asbestos-related work.
  27. B&P Code §7118.6: Knowingly or negligently entering into a contract with a person who is not certified to engage in hazardous waste remediation.
  28. B&P Code §7119: Willful failure or refusal to to diligently prosecute a construction project or operation without legal excuse.
  29. B&P Code §7120: Willful or deliberate failure to pay money when due for materials or services rendered or false denial of any amount due or the validity of a claim with intent to secure a discount or delay.
  30. B&P Code §7121: Employing or associating as an officer, director, partner, manager, qualifier or one of the personnel of record of a licensee, a person whose license was previously denied, suspended, or revoked, or who had knowledge of or participate in acts of an organization which had its license previously denied, suspended, or revoked.
  31. B&P Code §7121.5: Employing or associating as an officer, director, partner, manager, or qualifier, a qualifier of an organization which has had its license revoked or suspended, regardless of whether he or she had knowledge of or participated in any acts of the  organization which led to its license being revoked or suspended.
  32. B&P Code §7123: Being convicted of a crime substantially related to the qualifications, functions and duties of a contractor.
  33. B&P Code §7123.5: Overpricing work following an emergency or major disaster.

What happens when a complaint is filed or enforcement action initiated against my license?

The CSLB may initiate enforcement action on its own. However, more typically, a complaint is filed against a license. The License Law states that “any person” may file a complaint against a license. Usually, however, a complaint is filed by an owner or another contractor, subcontractor, material supplier or employee.

Complaints based on patent defects must be filed within 4 years after the act or omission. Complaints based on latent defects must be filed within 10 years after the act or omission. And complaints based on misrepresentations of material facts, or based on criminal conduct, must be filed within 2 years of discovery.

When a complaint is filed it is processed at the CSLB Intake and Mediation Center nearest the location where the alleged violation occurred. If the complaint is found to fall within the CSLB’s jurisdiction the CSLB will send confirmation of receipt of the complaint to the complainant and a notice to the contractor.

  1. Notice of Possible Violation: The notice to the contractor will usually request information as to whether a settlement has been reached, whether a settlement was offered but not accepted, whether the contractor contends that no violation exists, or if there is further information the contractor would like to share with the CSLB.
  2. Investigation: If a complaint is not resolved, a CSLB consumer services representative (CSR) will contact the complainant and the contractor to request additional information and documentation and attempt to mediate the dispute. If the CSR determines that further investigation is necessary, he or she can assign the case to an enforcement representative (ER) who will conduct an investigation by requesting further information and documents, and conducting interviews, to determine whether there is clear and convincing evidence of a violation of the License Law.
  3. CSLB-Sponsored Arbitration: In certain cases, the CSLB can refer the parties to the CSLB-sponsored arbitration program. The CSLB-sponsored arbitration program is only available if: (a) the dispute involves damages greater than $12,500 but less than $50,000; (b) the contractor has a license in good standing; (c) the contractor does not have a history of repeated or similar violations; (d)  the contractor does not currently have a disciplinary action pending against him or her; and (e) the parties have not previously agreed to arbitrate or are willing to waive a contractual agreement to arbitrate. The CSLB-sponsored arbitration program is voluntary, unless the damages are equal to or below $12,500, in which case arbitration can be mandated. If the  parties participate in the CSLB-sponsored arbitration the arbitrator’s decision is binding.
  4. CSLB Enforcement Action: Once an investigation is concluded the CSLB may take one or more of the following actions: (a) issue a warning letter; (b) issue a citation; (c) file an accusation; or (d) close the complaint because the parties’  settled, for lack of evidence, or because it found no violation. In rare instances, the CSLB may seek injunctive relief with the courts or refer the matter to a local prosecutor for the filing of criminal charges.

What is a warning letter?

If a violation is found but the contractor’s actions are not egregious and the contractor’s history does not reflect a patter of violations the CSLB may just send a warning letter to the contractor. A warning letter remains a matter of record and could support more serious action against a contractor if further violations occur.

What is a citation?

If a contractor is found to have violated the License Law, the CSLB may issue a citation imposing a civil penalty payable to the CSLB as well as an order of restitution requiring the contractor to either correct deficiencies and/or pay for the damages of the complainant. Civil penalties on a single construction project, no matter the number of violations, cannot exceed $5,000. However, if a contractor is found to have contracted with an unlicensed contractor or have aided and abetted an unlicensed contractor a civil penalty of up to $15,000 may be assessed.

A contractor may appeal a citation by giving notice to the CSLB within 15 days of service of the citation by the CSLB. If a contractor appeals the citation, a hearing is held before the Registrar of Contractors who may revoke, modify, or affirm a citation. A mandatory settlement conference before the hearing may also be conducted.

If a contractor does not appeal or fails to appeal a citation within 15 days of service of the citation by the CSLB, the citation becomes final. If a contractor fails to comply with a citation it will result in the automatic suspension of his or her license 30 days after noncompliance with the terms of the citation. A contractor may contest the determination of noncompliance by giving notice to the CSLB within 15 days of service of a notice of noncompliance by the CSLB. If a contractor continues to fail to comply with a citation it will result in the automatic revocation of his or her license 90 days after the date of automatic suspension.

What is an accusation?

The most serious violations are subject to the filing of an accusation. In an accusation, the CSLB seeks to suspend or revoke a contractor’s license, and begins with the CSLB filing an accusation which is similar to a complaint filed in superior court and includes an allegation of claims. A contractor has 15 days from service of an accusation by the CSLB to file a notice of defense.

The Administrative Procedures Act (Government Code sections 11500 et seq.) govern accusations, including limited discovery of names and addresses of witnesses, statements taken, investigative reports, and documents sought to be admitted as evidence. A mandatory settlement conference before the hearing may be conducted.

At the hearing before the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) the burden is on the CSLB to prove by clear and convincing evidence that a contractor’s license should be suspended or revoked. The rules of evidence, however, are typically more relaxed. Following the hearing, the ALJ will issue a proposed decision.

The CSLB may adopt the proposed decision in whole or in part or may enter its own ruling. The CSLB can also request that additional evidence be heard. The decision of the ALJ becomes a final decision 30 days after service of proposed decision unless reconsideration is requested.

A contractor who is unhappy with a decision can seek judicial relief by filing a petition for peremptory writ of administrative mandamus in the superior court. The peremptory writ provisions of California Code of Civil Procedure section 1094.5 govern writs and require the superior court to conduct an independent review of the record. The parties may also appeal the decision of the superior court to the court of appeal.

Contractors who lose an accusation may be required to pay the CSLB’s investigative and enforcement costs which can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. A contractor whose license is suspended may be reinstated upon proof of the contractor’s compliance with the conditions of suspension or, in the absence of such conditions, the discretion of the CSLB. A contractor whose license is revoked may not reinstate their license for a minimum of one year or up to a maximum of five years. A contractor will also be required to file a disciplinary bond.

How does the CSLB address complaints against unlicensed contractors?

Unlicensed contractors, as opposed to licensed contractors, don’t have a license which can be suspended or revoked. When the CSLB receives a complaint against an unlicensed contractor the CSLB may issue a citation including an order of abatement to cease and desist and a civil penalty up to $15,000, file a criminal action with the local district attorney’s office, or initiate injunction proceedings in the superior court.

Unlicensed contractors have 15 days from service of an administrative citation by the CSLB to appeal a citation. If an unlicensed contractor appeals a citation, a hearing is held before the Registrar of Contractors who may revoke, modify, or affirm a citation. A mandatory settlement conference before the hearing may also be conducted.

view post: What You Need to Know About Enforcement Actions by the Contractors State License Board

 

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