In recognition of Older Californians Month, May 1997, the Contractors State License Board reminds California senior citizens to get a copy of "What Seniors Should Know Before Hiring a Contractor."
An unlicensed contractor ripped off an elderly homeowner in the Bay Area recently when he took $14,000 for a room addition, abandoned the job and skipped the state.
If the woman had read about the brochure's advice to hire only licensed contractors, she could have avoided him altogether.
General advice is don't be a victim. Be aware that seniors have been targeted by scam artists posing as contractors.
The brochure offers the following advice.
Deal only with licensed contractors.
Don't rush into repairs, no matter how badly they are needed.
Don't hire the first contractor who comes along.
Ask to see the contractor's "pocket license" or home improvement sales registration. All contractors are issued pocket licenses which show the type of trade for which they are licensed and expiration date of license.
The Contractors State License Board receives approximately 30,000 complaints each year against building contractors, of which 25 percent are aimed at unlicensed contractors.
Less than half of the complainants thoroughly checked the contractor's qualifications before hiring them.
Call the Contractors State License Board, (800) 321-2752, to verify the information provided by the bidding contractor.
Be prepared with the contractor's name, license number and business address.
Another piece of advice is to get at least three bids, and ask for references from work the contractor has completed in the Los Altos/Mountain View area.
The Contractors State License Board, which operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, licenses and regulates the 277,000 building contractors in California and promotes the general welfare of the public in matters related to building construction.
Some financial advice to follow:
Don't pay cash.
Don't let the payments get ahead of the work completed, and don't pay the full cost of the job up front.
Do know how much to give as a deposit. Under state law, when undertaking a home improvement or repair job, contractors cannot ask for a deposit of more than 10 percent of the total cost of a job or $1,000, whichever is less, unless the contractor provides a bond, approved bond equivalent or approved joint control ensuring completion of your contract.
Do require a written contract and don't sign it until you fully understand the terms.
If you have a complaint against a contractor call the Board at (800) 321-2752.
To receive a copy of "What Seniors Should Know Before Hiring a Contractor," call the Contractors State License Board at (800) 321-2752.
You can also write them at P.O. Box 26000, Sacramento 95826.