Unlicensed Contractors Arrested in Napa, Calif. Sting

February 14, 2006

Police in Napa, Calif., arrested seven unlicensed building contractors who showed up to bid on repairing a 121-year-old Victorian house that was damaged during New Year’s weekend flooding, authorities said.

The arrests were part of a sting operation set up by state regulators in the wake of Napa and nine other California counties being declared disaster areas where homeowners and businesses are eligible for federal aid.

“Many homeowners, even outside the flood zone, don’t realize that unlicensed operators rarely, if ever, carry workers’ compensation insurance on their employees,” said Steve Sands, registrar of the Contractors State License Board. “If one of them gets hurt on their property, the homeowner could be liable. Plus, if a homeowner has problems with the unlicensed operator, they have very few options to go after them.”

California law requires contractors who perform work costing more than $500 in labor and materials to be licensed by the state board.

The seven arrested Thursday were charged with misdemeanors that carry maximum penalties for a first offense of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, although contracting without a license in a disaster area also can lead to felony charges. None of them were jailed.

The sting was held in a home damaged by heavy rains and flood waters from the Napa River. More than a dozen contractors showed up to present bids to state licensing officials, who were posing as homeowners.

The board reminded property owners needing repairs to verify that their contractors are licensed either online at www.cslb.ca.gov or calling 1-800-321-CSLB.

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