CSLB: ‘You might say that most of the unlicensed contractors cited in a Contractors State License Board (CSLB) sting operation in Novato last week really painted themselves into a corner. Of the 10 people cited on illegal contracting charges during CSLB’s one-day operation on March 10, 2016, eight submitted bids for painting work that far exceeded the legal limit before a state contractor license is required.

Investigators with CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) conducted the sting at a single-family home near Novato High School, assisted by the Marin County District Attorney’s Office. Investigators compiled a list of suspected unlicensed contractors from sources such as Craigslist, business cards, and referrals, and, posing as homeowners, contacted them for bids on projects such as exterior and interior painting, fencing, tree removal, and landscaping work.

All 10 persons who came to the house and turned in bids were cited for contracting without a state license (Business and Professions Code (BPC) section (§) 7028) and an additional misdemeanor charge of illegal advertising (BPC §7027.1). State law requires unlicensed contractors to state in all advertising that they are not licensed.

The painting bids averaged about $3,300. The other two other unlicensed contractors cited in the sting turned in quotes for a fence project ($1,500) and tree removal ($3,300). The tree service operator also was cited for not having workers’ compensation insurance and issued a Stop Order to immediately discontinue any other projects until workers’ comp coverage is obtained.

Unlicensed operators can only perform construction-related jobs of less than $500 for materials and/or labor, state law says.

CSLB Registrar Cindi Christenson said she hopes that those cited will stop working illegally and either pursue a contractor license or get out of the construction field altogether.

“This may be the lesson that drives them toward a legitimate career in the contracting industry,” Christenson said. “With a license and working out in the open, it’s likely they’ll find more jobs, and they’ll pay less for a license than they will a fine for unlicensed contracting.’