Unlicensed Contractors & Business Names

While justice is often done, for some victims it comes too late. The Placer Co. District Attorney issued an unlicensed contractor alert after an 87 year-old resident was bilked of $13,500 for a tree removal. The Sacramento Bee reported the unlicensed contractor was arrested, tried on theft and contracting without a license charges, found guilty and sentenced. He is spending one year in jail, was placed on five years probation, ordered to pay back the victim and was given a suspended prison sentence of five years. Unfortunately, his elderly victim died prior to his conviction and never saw justice done…

The CSLB Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) had a very busy early August. With a recent sting in Grass Valley and sweeps throughout Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange and Kings counties, they netted a Registered Sex Offender and several other non-licensees.

Partnering with various state and local governmental agencies, the Board swept through a number of active construction sites looking for unlicensed activities, verifying compliance with State regulations, and inspecting newly permitted construction projects. As has been the case throughout California, in Grass Valley, the Board also worked closely with the local Contractor’s Association.

In their ongoing effort to protect California consumers and level the playing field for licensed contractors, the CSLB has a page on its web site to identify the worst unlicensed violators. These “Most Wanted” are known to prey on vulnerable and unsuspecting homeowners and are involved in home improvement scams.

One of these “Most Wanted” was recently extradited to California where he faces multiple charges of fraud and theft. He is suspected of conning consumers in Butte, Colusa, Mendocino, Napa, Sacramento, Yolo and Sacramento Counties.

Q: I will be applying for a new contractor’s license and want to use a specific business name. I’m concerned that the name is already taken and I’ll end up getting my application rejected. Can you suggest a way to ensure that my application – name and all – will be accepted by the CSLB?

A: We’re you recently at CSLB headquarters in Sacramento? While waiting in line to deliver some documents, I over heard a prospective contractor asking a very similar question. If establishing a sole owner business, the CSLB will look to see that the name is not misleading. For instance, they would not allow you to use the name “XYZ Remodeling” with a “C-36” plumbing license. On the other hand, if you applied as “XYZ Plumbing” they would not deny this even if there were 20 other companies around the State with the same name.

I suggest you register your fictitious business name in the city or county where you intend to operate. If there is already a business registered with the exact name this could become a local issue. If applying as a corporation, there can only be one “XYZ Plumbing Inc” since the Secretary of State regulates this.

As to the second part of your question – ensuring that your application will be accepted – it is important that you properly complete all sections of the application, certify at least 4 years in your trade, respond accurately to all questions (including Question 11 criminal background), and study at least 20 hours to pass the law and trade exams.