Contractor’s Advertising Rules

I often see contractor’s advertising. Unlike most people, I also see what’s missing and what’s inappropriate within those ads. Is your ad up to the test? Does it meet the legal requirements? You might be surprised. We also put the CSLB to the test in reviewing their job performance on behalf of contractors and consumers…

The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) just released a document entitled “Sunset Review”. This 76-page report covers a multitude of issues including the Board’s Enforcement Activities; Licensure Requirements; Consumer Outreach and Education; and the Board’s response to issues identified in their prior sunset review, or job performance evaluation.

All Boards and Bureaus within the CA Dept of Consumer Affairs (DCA) are subject to a ‘sunset review’. The State Legislature has established this process in order to evaluate the 38 regulatory agencies under their jurisdiction, including the CSLB.

The ‘sunset review’ process provides an opportunity to conduct a regular systematic performance review and evaluation of DCA boards and bureaus and a formal mechanism for the Legislature, the boards and bureaus, stakeholders, and the Department to make advisory recommendations for Board and Bureau improvements. In theory, if it is determined that a given agency is not meeting its regulatory mission; it can be “sunset” out of existence.

One interesting section of the report details all examination passage rates and number of candidates during the past four fiscal years. This is broken down by classification, number sitting for each exam and the percentage of those that passed. Virtually every classification has shown a marked decrease in the number of applicants – except one. For example, from 2006 to 2010 those taking the General building (“B”) exam decreased by 32% and Concrete (“C-8”) showed a reduction of nearly 46%. However, Solar (“C-46”) test takers increased by 450%. In the last fiscal year (2009-10), “B” contractors led the way by far with over 9600 candidates, followed by Electrical (2625), HVAC and Landscaping (1575 each) and Plumbing (1450). The overall Exam passage rate was roughly 50%. If you would like to see a copy of this report please contact my office or the Contractor’s Board.

I recently attended homecoming weekend at my Alma Mater. While reading one of the local newspapers, I came across a Directory of Business and Service advertisements. A quick review and 15 minutes of research showed that while some of the contractor ads were spot on, several others had apparent problems. For instance, a “B” contractor advertised that he performed projects that fall under the “A” classification. A second contractor advertised for masonry specialty work without holding the specific “C-29” classification. Another contractor’s ad listed an incorrect license number, or a number ‘borrowed’ from another contractor. A quick online check shows the advertised license number is a different class of work for a contractor based in southern CA not on the North Coast. Lastly, while most contractors correctly listed if they were “unlicensed” one advertiser listed a business license rather than a contractor’s license, apparently to pull a ‘fast one’ on unsuspecting consumers.

This is not meant to single out these contractors. The same issues would likely be found in most local newspapers. I would suggest that if a contractor anywhere in the state may be in doubt about this, a review of their print advertising would be in order.