Common wisdom says you always consider the source when evaluating a statement, offer or claim. That is doubly wise for consumers who are falling victim to unlicensed contractors making Internet pitches for work. These bad operators muddy the waters for the licensed good guys doing business legitimately. A significant problem that government is fighting on your behalf…
Leave it to unscrupulous individuals to ruin a good thing. Popular Internet bulletin board sites like Craigslist have seen a jump in excessive illegal and deceptive ads, which prompted the CSLB — and contracting boards from Arizona, Nevada and Oregon – to jointly issue a “consumer alert”.
The agencies are warning consumers that if they use Craigslist or other similar websites to find a contractor, they face a real risk of hiring someone whose only goal is to rip them off. According to the CSLB, the unusual step of issuing a consumer alert is being taken because of the growing problem that Craigslist has not adequately addressed.
“Craigslist serves as a valuable tool to legitimately licensed and insured contractors, offering them a free advertising vehicle to connect with consumers,” said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands, “Unfortunately, hundreds, if not thousands, of unlicensed or unscrupulous contractors are breaking the law every day by posting deceptive or illegal ads, and Craigslist has done little to address the issue.”
In addition to protecting consumers, these Contractor Boards are concerned that allowing these illegal and deceptive ads to be posted unfettered creates an un-level playing field, where licensed and insured contractors cannot compete. To illustrate the seriousness of the problem, simultaneous enforcement operations were conducted last week in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon, using Craigslist ads as a basis to identify suspects.
In California alone, undercover sting operations conducted in eight different cities led to the arrest of 100 suspects. Three-quarters were identified from Craigslist ads. One suspect is a convicted murderer, while two others are registered sex offenders. All suspects now face a variety of charges, including contracting without a license and illegal advertising.
The issue of illegal online advertising isn’t new. CSLB addressed the problem with the Internet site in 2006 and 2007. As a result, Craigslist placed a link at the top of its “Skilled Trade Services” page to license information and to the California Department of Consumer Affairs website.
According to Assemblymember Bill Berryhill (R-Stockton), CSLB’s enforcement operations have bipartisan support from the state legislature. “It is important that consumers who hire unlicensed contractors truly understand their own liability.”
Assemblymember Bill Monning (D-Carmel) applauded the work of CSLB to protect California consumers and to crack down on the underground economy. “These citations and arrests protect not only consumers, but also law-abiding contractors who cannot compete and are going out of business.”
Q: I have been licensed since 1999 in good standing. A company wants me to become Responsible Managing Officer (RMO). I pled ‘no contest to a DUI in 2011. Now with this on my record will the state deny my ability to RMO this company? Can I keep my Sole Owner license active?
A: In the large majority of cases, one DUI would not prevent you from becoming a Qualifier as RMO. However, if you’re currently on probation the CSLB may require that you wait until this is completed. Regarding your second question, you’ll need to have at least 20% ownership of the company that you qualify. If you own less than 20% then you’ll be required to inactivate your Sole Owner license.