Signing a contract with a consumer for a defined scope of work, cost and set of deliverables/milestones seems like it would protect a Contractor from most consumer complaints, but nothing could be further from reality. Consumers routinely complain to the Contractors State License Board of California (CSLB) for even minor issues (in addition to complaining to the License Bond Surety and posting negative reviews on social media and review sites).
Stage I: Contractor Receives CSLB Intake Department Letter
When a complaint is received by the Contractors Board, it is assigned to an Intake Officer who will often try to resolve the case between the two parties before sending it to a CSLB Investigator. The CSLB will send a letter to the Contractor, advising that a complaint has been made by the Complainant, identifying the address where the project is located, and an advisory that the contractor should contact the customer and attempt to settle the matter. This letter also requires a formal response to be provided by the Contractor the Contractors Board regarding the attempt to settle.
The Contractor must advise the Board which of the following resulted from Contractor and Complainant negotiations:
- A settlement was reached (in which case they must identify the amount of the settlement) or;
- A settlement was offered by the Contractor but was rejected by the Complainant or;
- They agreed that there were no violations
If you are a California Contractor who has received a letter from the Contractor’s Board indicating that there is a complaint against you, it is imperative that you get experienced legal advice about how to best respond to the Complainant and the CSLB before you take any further steps.
Because you need to document your attempts to resolve the situation in writing, it is imperative that you understand how to provide the right evidence to the CSLB. You need to know how to persuasively refute the Complainant’s claim and if there are issues of workmanship or warranty, offer to correct the work. You must never appear to have “abandoned” the project.
It is also important to respond in a timely manner as this will increase the chances that the matter will not proceed on from Intake to Investigation. If you as the Contractor respond to the CSLB letter but the Complainant does not, the Contractors Board often will choose to just close the file. Legal advice at the stage is critical to retain since this documentation will become part of your case if you are unable to resolve the issue with the Complainant and the CSLB investigation moves forward.
Stage 2: CSLB Investigation Launched
If a Contractor does not respond to the Intake Department letter, then they will assign it to an CSLB Investigator who will retain an industry expert to review the Contractor’s work. It is easy for these experts to identify minor issues which were not spelled out in the contract between the Contractor and Complainant and technical violations which can lead to a Citation. Hiring a lawyer at this stage is critical for three reasons: First in order to assemble the best documentation to support your case; Second to advise you about what to do if the CSLB offers you their Arbitration Program (something they can compel you to do if the Complaint is for less than $15,000); and Three, avoiding a Citation and a formal Accusation, both of which will be disciplinary actions which will be permanently associated with your license for years to come.
If you are a California Contractor under investigation by the Contractors State License Board of California (CSLB) due to a dispute with a client Complainant, you should immediately retain the services of an experienced attorney in licensing law.
The Law Offices of Lucy S. McAllister have successfully represented a wide range of California-licensed Contractors being investigated by the CSLB. We have the knowledge and experience to craft a comprehensive strategy and are dedicated to navigating your specific case from the accusation and through the investigation to the disciplinary process and we can legally defend your professional interests.
For additional information or to schedule a consultation about your professional licensing issue, please contact us today at (877) 280-9944.