Devastating wildfires have destroyed thousands of structures in California and many survivors must now clear property and start the rebuilding process. The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) urges wildfire survivors to hire only California-licensed contractors to avoid being victimized by unlicensed persons and transient criminals.
Additionally, wildfire debris removal should not be done without first reviewing federal and state options or before consulting local officials. More information is available on the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services website under “debris removal.”
“Disasters bring out the very best in people, with strangers and neighbors helping each other,” said CSLB Registrar David Fogt. “Unfortunately, unscrupulous individuals are drawn to these areas and try to take advantage of vulnerable home and business owners. Wildfire survivors need to be especially cautious about hiring reputable, licensed contractors to repair, rebuild, or clear property.”
A CSLB-issued license is required for any construction job totaling $500 or more in labor and materials. Additionally, it is a felony to contract without a license in a declared disaster area. Licensed contractors have met experience and testing requirements carry a license bond, passed a criminal background check and carry workers’ compensation insurance for employees.
CSLB’s Disaster Help Center webpage offers publications and videos. These include an After a Disaster, Don’t Get Scammed brochure, and a Rebuilding After a Disaster video and fact sheet. All information is also available by calling CSLB’s Disaster Hotline, 800-962-1125, which is staffed Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or by calling the automated assistance line at 800-321-CSLB (2752).
“CSLB will aggressively seek those trying to take advantage of wildfire survivors by partnering with local and state agencies to conduct sweeps and undercover enforcement operations in disaster areas,” Fogt said.
Tips for Hiring a Contractor
Hire only California-licensed contractors. Ask to see the license. The number must be on all advertisements, contracts and business cards.
Check the license number on CSLB’s website or by phone at 800-321-CSLB (2752). Confirm the contractor has workers’ compensation insurance for employees.
Create a personalized list of licensed, area contractors using the Find My Licensed Contractor.
Get three bids, check references, and get a written contract.
Don’t pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000—whichever is less.
Don’t pay cash, and don’t let the payments get ahead of the work. Only pay for work as it is completed to your satisfaction
Keep a job file of all project papers, including correspondence and copies of all payments.
Avoid making the final payment until you’re satisfied with the job.
CSLB operates under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs and licenses and regulates nearly 281,000 contractors in California. In 2020, CSLB helped consumers recover more than $26 million in ordered restitution.