The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office issued a warning Friday to residents who might be in need of a contractor’s services after the recent natural disasters.
Property owners rebuilding homes damaged or destroyed by the recent fires should be cautious of contractors seeking to take advantage of their misfortune.
Fraudulent contractor scams typically fall into two categories: contractors working without a license and contractors – licensed or not – whose work is substandard or never completed.
Criminal penalties for either during a declared state of emergency are significantly higher, according to the D.A.’s Office.
Deputy District Attorney Steven Wang explains how the scam can work in this video:
Unlicensed contractors who seek to repair property damaged by a natural disaster face fines of up to $10,000, three years in jail or both. Contractors convicted of defrauding a property owner or tenant for repairs to a structure damaged by a natural disaster can be fined up to $25,000.
The Los Angeles County D.A’s Office also offered the following:
- Hire licensed and insured contractors. Check a contractor’s license status with the Contractors State License Board at http://cslb.ca.gov. Disaster victims may call the board’s hotline at (800) 962-1125.
- Ask friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers for contractor recommendations.
- Ask contractors to provide references.
- Don’t hire contractors who ask for the entire payment up front.
- Have a knowledgeable friend, relative or attorney review the repair contract before signing it.