CSLB Newsletter Summer 2014 Part 1

The CSLB Summer Newsletter 2014 was released today.

cslb newsletter foot in mouthI almost feel like I should thank the CSLB for publishing these newsletters because of the amount of blog posts they can generate. These newsletters give the CSLB the opportunity to continually stick their foot in their mouth in a widely publicized format, and me the opportunity to point it out.

A new Board Chair was elected, David Dias. Mr. Dias decided to make his first public written statement about his personal issues. Being a former HVAC guy, he’s decided to spend the Boards resources going after unlicensed HVAC contractors. Really? Shouldn’t he be focused on the construction industry as a whole? Or is he taking his position of power to tackle something that bothers him personally?

Here is his statement:

“After several extremely tough years for California’s construction industry, it appears that the worst is finally behind most of us, and the prospects for the remainder of this year look brighter for our colleagues. I am pleased to have been elected as CSLB’s Board Chair in this positive atmosphere, and look forward to more work – and jobs – for contractors as the state’s economy continues to recover.

I’m proud of the professionalism demonstrated by the vast majority of CSLB’s almost 300,000 licensees through good times and bad – those who maintained high standards and refrained from cheating, even under the strain of a crushing recession.

Unfortunately, there are always a few whose actions tarnish the reputation of our profession. In particular, I am troubled by the increasing number of complaints CSLB is receiving about predatory C-20 Warm-Air Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) contractors who are targeting vulnerable consumers after being called out for simple repairs or routine maintenance. This really hits home since I’ve spent much of my career working in the HVAC field, and I find it disappointing that my honest, hard-working colleagues suffer from association with the industry’s bad apples.

CSLB is taking steps to warn and weed out this element. We hosted a conference in San Jose in May that brought together industry officials, regulators, and C-20 contractors to discuss HVAC installation. The event also introduced CSLB’s new “Ambassador Program,” an education and enforcement campaign. A similar town hall meeting for HVAC contractors was held in early July in San Leandro.

CSLB plans to continue its campaign of educational HVAC workshops to remind contractors about California’s service and repair contract laws and requirements, including a customer’s three-day right to rescind a home improvement contract.

CSLB is partnering with local district attorneys, the Better Business Bureau, and industry leaders on these efforts. I also encourage HVAC business owners to join us in identifying those who are victimizing consumers and damaging the industry’s reputation.

CSLB’s Enforcement division will be reinforcing its HVAC scam zero-tolerance policy through targeted undercover sting operations. You can help in this effort by offering your residential or commercial properties to use for sting operations. An article in this newsletter explains how you can help.”

This is my favorite part of his statement:

“look forward to more work – and jobs – for contractors as the state’s economy continues to recover” He’s not new to the Board, but it seems he hasn’t been paying attention at the meetings. The CSLB licensing division still has its underground and illegal regulations in place that make it extremely difficult to obtain a license. I’m shocked that they haven’t put out some stats that show how many B contractors obtained a license in 2013 compared to any previous year. Ok, no I’m not really shocked, because I’d bet that a lot fewer B contractors were licensed in 2013. So… “more work and jobs for contractors”?? Reality is… they’re creating more underground contractors.

My second favorite part of his statement:

“CSLB is partnering with local district attorneys, the Better Business Bureau…” First, haven’t they always been working with DA’s? They were when I worked there from 2000 – 2005. Has something changed? Next… the BBB. The CSLB is “partnering” with the BBB? Apparently the CSLB is unaware that the BBB is a paid membership business whose business model is to turn a profit, not protect consumers. And does the CSLB think that the BBB is receiving complaints from consumers that they aren’t receiving? “Partnering” with the BBB is just their way of blowing smoke up … to make it sound like they are actually doing something.

Stay tuned for CSLB Newsletter Summer 2014 Part 2 in the coming days where I’ll discuss the CSLB getting tough on RMOs.

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Whats New in California Contractors Licensing

Whats New in California Contractors Licensing?

Well, there doesn’t appear to be much new happening in the world of California contractors licensing. I haven’t heard from anyone new about their license application struggles.

Could everything be going smoothly at the CSLB? I highly doubt that. They haven’t been able to get their act together over the last 15 years.

Are you, or someone you know, in need of application advise? Do you need an application prepared or reviewed? Are you looking for high quality, low cost exam study materials? If so, please feel free to contact me. I reply to emails even after business hours, so don’t hesitate in dropping me a line.

 

Email from a License Guru Blog Reader

Below is an email from a License Guru Blog reader describing her CSLB experience review nightmare.

CSLB Red Tape“I have been following the license guru blog for about 7 months now which is just 3 months short of the full year my husband has been getting the run around from the investigator assigned to his file.  On 06/13/13 the application was submitted and from there everything that you could possibly imagine in your worst nightmare happened.  The investigator began with requests for additional documentation to support the work experience forms that were submitted by two previous employers.  So the dog and pony show began.

We would get the documents and then submit them  only to find out that she needed one more thing…something she did not request the first go around,  and on and on this went on with the two employers, her, us and then she asked for more 1099’s which led to more people being sent forms for work experience, permits, pretty much everything but them signing in blood.  Even with certified mail it seemed she just did not have all the items to find the 4 years of experience she needed.  Or her other excuse was she could not contact the people….which is totally a lie since each and every person never received phone calls from her and we checked with them and found that she had not left messages or attempted.  Finally it was to the point that she made it her mission to deny this application.  Literally a day before his test date she said you might as well just not take it since you will not be approved for your work experience anyway.  It was amazing the total inexperience and lack of support.  Something that we felt needed to be brought the attention of her supervisors.  So, we called a meeting and did just that.  We went with the full binder of documentation with all supporting documents on a job by job basis from each previous employer and we also asked for each employer prior to that day if they would mind being called on our meeting day if necessary to speak with CSLB or answer any questions.  All agreed and were on stand by.  Also realize we ended up pulling 1099’s over 12 year period…and had letters written to explain what each job entailed along with building permits and copies of receipts.  I mean we were prepared!  When we got into the meeting we sat down with the investigator and two supervisors.  She said, “So what are we hear for today?”  Of course I wanted to say are you freaking kidding me?  But I let my husband start and so he said Basically we are confused why this is taking so long to verify my work experience.  All of this information is so detailed and we have letters, permits, 1099’s, W2’s, and even have pictures (even thought she said they were not acceptable) we brought them to show the quality work he has done.  She said, “Well i have only been able to verify 14 months and there is just not all the pieces to support the rest.  So that is when I said, I have prepared this binder with all the documents that have been sent to you.  But it has been organized in a way to show each job, timeframes, support, pictures, etc.  So, I handed it to the Supervisors and they started to view and started to ask the investigator what she could not verify.  She flipped through her mess of folders, which was all scribble and unorganized and when I said what is missing with employer #1, as she looked for that persons name she said oh I don’t see that one.  Hmmm was that one returned to me?  And so the meeting rolled on with much more of this same thing…her fumbling, us proving, Supervisors eyebrows raising, questions  about why this had not proceeded, etc…finally the last straw was when she called out one employer as not being able to specify that my husband did structural work for them.  She literally put words into the employers mouth and how we know that is what transpired next.  A phone call was made per the request of her supervisors to call the employer in question (one that would support 3 years of experience) the employer got on the phone and the investigator started the manipulation right in front of us.  She said remember when i asked you about what “my husband” did for you?  I asked if he did structural work and you said that he did sheetrock and remodels.  The employer said yes that is true, so the investigator said so he did not do any structural work on the jobs he did for you.  The employer said well wait a minute i guess the way it was asked of me made me think of it as new construction work, so no our work has not been brand new construction…but the work he has done is basically taking everything on old construction down to wood and foundation and rebuilding with new electrical, plumbing and framing, pretty much the works.  Plus he has supervised a crew to do so…so yes if that means structural then absolutely.  Well, bingo it was pretty much a given that the original conversation with no one to witness was most definately manipulated.  After the phone call, I just stated that I did not feel as if the investigator really understood her job, and that she was not in any way helpful.  The Supervisor asked if I could leave the binder.  I said I was uncomfortable with that since it was clear that the investigator had obviously lost documents previously sent via certified mail and that I would prefer they make another copy of all the documents that she should already all have at the meeting today.

So they sent her to make some copies.  Meanwhile they agreed that there was plenty of documentation and that we would not need to go to the hearing….it would be moved on from the investigator to the next step.  Upon her arrival back into the room one of the Supervisors was clearly irritated with her and said they were hiring for investigator positions and wondered if I was interested in applying!  He went on to say he was very impressed by the documentation binder that was presented by us and our presentation of it.  The investigator gave out a loud scowl and stormed out of the room.  Well I guess she does not like me!

Anyway,  we are still waiting for the final paperwork to come back…we have called and CSLB says it is in final stage and paperwork should be coming to tell us about securing the bond so that the license number can be issued.  That was 2 weeks ago!  I can’t believe this and I also realize now that majority of people that have this happen would just give up.  It has been a fight and something I would not wish on my worst enemy.

Any recommendations on what to do now?  When you check his application number online it just says application denied, do not schedule exam, but that has been that way since right after his exam was scheduled and he passed!  Amazing, what to do?  I feel like this is borderline unethical, and borderline against the law!  In addition there have been 3 major jobs that have come and gone that my husband could have bid on had he been licensed.  Possible loss of income not to mention the hours spent on phone, document preparation, mail and on and on.

Very tired and very frustrated.”

I want to thank this reader for sharing her CSLB experience with us. She has shown that the CSLB does not know how to handle people who are prepared and willing to stand up to them. As of this posting, the app is still in limbo. My guess is, the CSLB is trying to resolve this without making themselves look any worse than they already do.

If you find yourself in this situation…. put together a neatly prepared, organized binder and request a meeting with the CSLB. And remember…. DOCUMENT EVERYTHING, including phone calls!! Always ask the CSLB to put their requests in writing! This is vital!

CSLB Streamlines License Experience Review Process

Industry Bulletin released today: CSLB Streamlines License Experience Review Process

CSLB streamlines application process“SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is the government agency that oversees California’s construction industry and protects consumers by ensuring that license applicants have the minimum qualifications required by law. An important part of this process is verifying and investigating the experience claimed by an applicant. CSLB has a legal mandate to investigate a minimum of 3 percent of applications received for the claimed experience.

Previously, applications and experience claims were reviewed and processed by CSLB’s Licensing division and the formal experience investigations were conducted by CSLB’s Enforcement division. In some cases, this divided process resulted in a duplication of efforts and longer processing times.

To streamline the process and provide more efficient services to license applicants, the experience investigation program now has been transferred to CSLB’s Licensing division.

The transfer will not change CSLB’s policy as it relates to the experience qualifications required of applicants. As mandated by law, CSLB will continue to require four years of journey-level experience within the last 10 years immediately preceding the submission of the application. In the case of experience verification and investigation, the applicant still must provide documentation to substantiate the experience claimed on his or her application.”

Where do I begin?

Why does the CSLB continue to stick with this 3% mandate nonsense. First they created their list of “critical classifications” (not approved by the legislature), then they claim that by REQUIRING those applicants to provide documentation, they are part of the minimum of 3% of all apps received?

Let’s get Real CSLB!

The 3% law is meant to be a sampling of all apps received. REQUIRING certain applicants to provide experience documentation is NOT a sampling. Your REQUIREMENT to have applicants that are applying for one of your illegal “critical classifications” is, in itself, ILLEGAL! 3% minimum and mandatory are two completely separate things.

No Need for the Law!

It’s more than obvious that the rule of law does not pertain to the CSLB! There is a legal process that they must go through if they are going to change what is already written into law. It just floors me that they think they can just make up the rules whenever it suits them!

Smoke and Mirrors? Or a Dog and Pony Show?

I’m not sure which one we’re dealing with here. Smoke and Mirrors? The bulletin could be meant as a smoke screen of… We ARE the CSLB, this is what WE do! Or it could be a Dog and Pony show because they have no clue what they’re doing and they want us to think they do. Either way… what they’re doing is illegal. Plain and simple!

What are the qualifications of the people reviewing the applications?

That’s what I want to know. I know for a fact that one of their “investigators” has a background in marketing. The other investigator? Who knows. Unless and until they bring in people who have ACTUAL construction experience, the applicants will be paying the price.

 Experience investigation program now has been transferred to CSLB’s Licensing division

How many apps have been “reviewed” by licensing, only to be transferred to Enforcement because the “investigator” had no clue what they were reviewing? Far too many!! Who is going to back them up now?

CSLB Streamlines License Experience Review Process?

I can tell you right now, that this decision will NOT streamline the process. They are going to generate such a backlog, it’s going to be mind boggling.

Darkest before the Dawn

It’s been said that it gets darkest before the dawn, well folks, we may be approaching dawn and I fear it’s going to be a very ugly day now that the fox is in charge of the hen house.

CalOSHA Targets Construction Sites for Inspections

CSLB Industry Bulletin

Following a series of fatal accidents involving construction workers, CSLB is passing along an announcement from the California Department of Industrial Relations about upcoming inspections of construction sites in the San Francisco Bay Area. CSLB likewise encourages rigorous training programs and on-site safety measures to protect construction workers from danger. 

Cal/OSHA TargeCAL OSHAts Construction Sites for Inspections

OAKLAND — Cal/OSHA is focusing on safety compliance at construction sites in the San Francisco Bay Area, following a recent series of fatal accidents in the region. Investigators have been deployed to inspect construction work sites throughout the coming weeks to determine whether adequate measures have been taken to identify safety hazards and prevent injury.

“Construction sites present special challenges to worker safety,” said Christine Baker, Director of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR). “Employers need to have strong safety programs in place and train their workers to follow procedures.”

Cal/OSHA is a division of state Department of Industrial Relations.

Hazards at construction sites include open trenches and moving equipment at ground level, but elevated areas are particularly dangerous. Four recent incidents in California illustrate the danger.

On May 21, a worker at a residential project in San Jose fell to his death from a three-story building. On May 20, a worker on a San Mateo project tumbled nine feet from a wall, sustaining fatal head injuries. The same day in San Diego, a worker near the top of 22-foot rebar column was killed when the column fell on him. On May 18, a construction worker was killed when the train bridge he was dismantling in downtown Riverside collapsed, crushing him. All four accidents are under investigation by Cal/OSHA.

Falls are the leading cause of death for construction workers, which is one reason why the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has designatedJune 2-6 as “National Safety Stand-Down” week to encourage employers to talk with workers about fall hazards and prevention.

Cal/OSHA has posted an industry-specific fact sheet on fall protection online, and will be participating with federal OSHA in a series of “Safety Stand-Down” events at construction sites across the state to bring emphasis to the importance of fall protection and other safety measures at construction sites.

“Our goal is to raise awareness for everyone working in construction that hazards can be identified and corrected,” said acting Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “Preparation and vigilance are vital to preventing workplace fatalities.”

Fall protection will be among the items Cal/OSHA inspectors will be checking during its inspections, from railings on buildings to personal devices such as hooks that attach to vests. Cal/OSHA’s teams will also examine trench safety, equipment safety and potential site hazards such as power lines. If inspectors find a lack of protection or a serious hazard, they can stop work at the site until the hazards are abated. Employers who fail to comply with Cal/OSHA safety regulations will be cited and ordered to correct the violations.

Cal/OSHA has resources available for employers and employees on its website, including safety publications for industries such as construction. Cal/OSHA’sConsultation Program provides free and voluntary assistance to employers and employee organizations to improve their health and safety programs. For assistance from the Cal/OSHA Consultation Program, employers can call (800) 963-9424.

Additional information on specific issues and work-related topics are available on the DIR website as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

Having trouble with the CSLB?

Are you having trouble with the CSLB? Join the fight by contacting your State Assembly Member’s office or your State Senator’s office.

Having trouble with the CSLBI have been suggesting to applicants that they get their State Representative involved for some time now and within the last few weeks I have heard from several people who have done just that. Who is your State Representative?

The benefit of this is: 1) The CSLB will respond to a political inquiry much faster than they will respond to you. Sad, but true. 2) Once you get the CSLB reply via the law maker, reply to the CSLB back through the law maker. Keep them involved. 3) The more pressure they get from law makers the more they might think about fixing the current mess in the licensing department. 4) The more the politicians hear about this, the more they may be inclined to look into what the CSLB is doing.

So don’t take no for answer!

My bet is the CSLB knows that what they are doing is illegal. They know that they created far too many underground regulations to go unnoticed. At some point, they’ll be called to the carpet and their jobs will be at stake. In the meantime, I think they’ll give the squeaky wheels the grease just to make you go away and to keep anyone from really looking into what they’re doing.

Remember, get everything from the CSLB in writing. If you are able to talk to a CSLB staff member on the phone and they ask you to provide something, tell them to send you the request in writing.

Make them provide the specific law or regulation that gives them the authority to do what they’re doing, or to ask for what they’re asking for. Just “because they say so” only works between a parent and child. They are a State agency that has to follow the rule of law. They don’t have the luxury of making up the rules as they go along, or changing the rules on a whim.

So if you’re having trouble with the CSLB, take a stand and fight back. We live in a democracy and you have every right as a citizen of this Country, and of this State, to contact your elected representatives if you feel the government is over-stepping its boundaries!

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The Declaration of Independence

Lesson Not Learned for Repeat Offenders in CSLB Sting

Lesson Not Learned for Repeat Offenders Caught in CSLB Sting Operations.

Cited for illegal contracting in Chino, Lake Elsinore were cited previously, disregarded fines.

CSLB Undercover StingSACRAMENTO  –  One of the goals of the undercover sting operations conducted by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is to convince those caught for illegal contracting that they’re far better off getting their license and working as a legitimate contractor.

But, as a pair of Inland Empire stings showed last week, that message just doesn’t sink in for some.

Of the 13 persons cited April 24 on illegal contracting charges at stings in Chino and Lake Elsinore, three were repeat offenders, including one who had a $5,000 warrant hanging over his head for failing to appear in court on a previous contracting violation. Seven suspects who came to the Chino sting were issued Notices To Appear (NTA) in San Bernardino Superior Court; six from the Lake Elsinore sting have Riverside County Superior Court dates.

The suspect with the $5,000 warrant, Lazaro A. Garcia, of Riverside, is a very familiar figure to CSLB investigators. An unlicensed painter who operates under the business name “Professional Home Repairs,” Garcia has been issued three previous NTAs for misdemeanor charges related to illegal contracting, and has been cited twice by CSLB on administrative violations.

Twelve of the 13 suspects, including the previous offenders, received misdemeanor citations for contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code section 7028). First-conviction penalties for contracting without a license include up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines. Penalties escalate with successive violations.

In addition, 12 of the 13 were cited on a misdemeanor charge of illegal advertising (Business and Professions Code section 7027.1). State law requires contractors to place their license number in all print, broadcast, and online advertisements. Those without a license can advertise for jobs valued at less than $500, but the ad must state that they are not a licensed contractor.

“We try to bring unlicensed contractors over to the legal side. We even give those caught in our stings an application to apply for a license,” CSLB Registrar Steve Sands said. “But we won’t tolerate these chronic offenders who think they can sidestep the law and endanger the public.”

My thoughts…

Steve Sands says they “try to bring unlicensed contractors over to the legal side”? What he doesn’t mention is that if those cited in a sting were to apply, the CSLB licensing investigation posse will put that applicant through the wringer. They will ask for everything to be documented…. in triplicate. That applicant will already have a huge red flag next to his name.

My feeling is, if a guy is contracting without a license, I doubt he’s keeping complete and accurate records. I also feel that unlicensed guy knows he’d get pulled through the wringer and has no way of “proving” his experience. Maybe that’s why these unlicensed contractors aren’t taking good ol’ Steve up on his generous offer to join the flock.

And it does appear as though the CSLB tolerates it if they are citing the same unlicensed contractors repeatedly. If the slap on the hand doesn’t hurt, the bad kid is going to continue doing bad stuff. Wake up SWIFT/CSLB, your stings are ineffective!

CSLB Registrar of Contractors Announces Retirement

BREAKING NEWS! ~ CSLB Registrar of Contractors Announces Upcoming Retirement ~ FINALLY!

Steve Sands CSLBThis has been a long time coming. Steve Sands has decided to step down at year’s end after leading the Contractors State License Board since 2001. It has long been thought that Mr. Sands has just been “phoning it in” over the last several years. The fact that his employees seem to be running the show is a testament to his lack of leadership.

SACRAMENTO — Steve Sands, who’s been at the helm of the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) since January 1, 2001, has announced his plan to retire at the end of the year. Mr. Sands made the announcement at CSLB’s quarterly Board meeting, held yesterday, April 24, in San Diego.

As Registrar of Contractors, Mr. Sands serves as the CSLB executive officer and oversees a $60 million budget and more than 400 employees at CSLB headquarters in Sacramento and 10 other offices around the state.

Under Mr. Sands’ leadership, CSLB has been recognized as a leader in proactive enforcement programs and partnerships with state and local agencies that help curb the underground economy. CSLB’s Licensing, Examination, Enforcement, and Public Affairs programs have been used as models for the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies (NASCLA) and other agencies within the Department of Consumer Affairs.

“Steve has done a remarkable job, expertly guiding the Board through tumultuous budget times, including deep staff cuts,” said Board Chair Joan Hancock. “He’s always made consumer protection his top priority, while also working to protect the integrity of the state’s construction industry. He’s going to leave some very big shoes to fill.”

Prior to coming to CSLB, Mr. Sands was Executive Officer of the California Architects Board from 1986-2000. From 1978-1986, he worked in the Department of Consumer Affairs Executive and Legislative Offices.

I worked for Mr. Sands at the Architects Board and remember a day when I was walking through the office as Mr. Sands was walking towards me when he said Hello. I turned to look behind me to see who he was talking to because he wasn’t the most social person, unless you were wearing a skirt that is. I was surprised that no one was behind me and shocked that he was actually speaking to me. I had been working there for almost a year and didn’t believe he was speaking to me. Keep in mind this office only had about twenty employees, so it wasn’t like I was tucked in some far corner never to be seen. After he came to the CSLB, some the female employee’s that worked for him at the Architects Board followed him to the CSLB. I wasn’t surprised.

So the day is finally coming. We have another eight months before his departure, and hopefully the new Registrar will be more of a leader and less of a political figure head. And with any luck, that person will fix the disaster that is Karen Robinson, Betsy Figueira, Rick Villucci, and Andrea Sisto!

via CSLB Registrar of Contractors Announces Upcoming Retirement.

CSLB Investigation Opinion

I received an email via my contact form on my website. I don’t know what prompted this person to send me this, other than to give their opinion about the CSLB investigators.

Here’s their comment, untouched and not modified. cslb investigation opinion

“with and in fact most likely shoved into someone elses pile of folders. Make sure to cover yourself with confirmations of documents received. Make sure to double check with the people that filled out work experience forms on your behalf to see if they received phone calls or further documentation to fill out…because investigators will say they left messages but never was able to verify with previous employers. It’s part of the game, job security for them. Request to speak with a supervisor when you get nowhere with an investigator. Get a face to face meeting and bring a binder with each job tabbed showing, length of time, 1099 or W2 to back it up, permits (if applicable), work experience form filled out by the verifier, and a letter from the verifier stating specific duties you performed in relation to the classification you are going to be licensed for. Cross your T’s and dot your I’s and document everything, organize it and state your case. Do it sooner rather than later because they will give you no more than 30 days to do so, and when they extend it to 60 make sure you request a legal hearing to protect yourself, or you will have to start all over again! Don’t take the investigators word that they are still reviewing because they are not, you must be pro-active and get that face to face meeting with the supervisor. This is the only way that CSLB will start realizing that most of the investigators are really not even doing their job and most likely don’t have a clue on how to do it! I was shocked at the lack of organization and mess of notes and scribble the investigator showed me…they should be ashamed of such a poor representation of their investigative department.”

Do you have a CSLB Investigation Opinion that you’d like to share. Please, feel free to email me. I will keep your name anonymous.