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aka914

Contractor did not pull permit

aka914
July 27, 2017

I hired a licensed GC in California to remodel my bathroom. This included plumbing, framing, and electrical. The contractor did not pull a permit with the City nor did they tell me I needed one. I am having issues with the work and I trying to find out if anyone knows if it is the GC's responsibility to pull the necessary permits or is it mine?

There is nothing in the contract about permits. I did not even think it needed one because it was a simple remodel, but now that I may have to file a complaint against them, I want to know if it is their responsibility. If it is theirs, does anyone know the legal source where I can find this?


Thanks.

Comments (60)

  • jellytoast

    The OP does not have to hire an attorney or sue the contractor to file a complaint with the CSLB.

    aka914 thanked jellytoast
  • aka914

    I am extremely happy I posted my question. I can't thank all of you enough for the insightful comments. I am supposed to be talking to an attorney next week and see which way I go with it. I am definitely going to post pictures of all their work on every website they advertise on. So you can all see what I am talking about, here are some more pictures for your enjoyment. The green dye below is standing water that has been there for over ten minutes after the water was shut off. The top photo shows the damage to the tub which they glued back in place without telling me, also it's hard to tell in the photo, but the tile is missing under the tub which they damaged when they ripped out the tile the first time.


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  • aka914

    Jellytoast, to answer your questions the GC did the plumbing, electrical, and drywall. A licensed sub did the

    To answer your questions the GC did the plumbing, electrical, and drywall. A licensed sub did the tile. They have a surety bond of $15,000 which I will go after and I don't remember about the worker's comp. The darn CSLB website is down so I can't look.

  • bry911

    The OP does not have to hire an attorney or sue the contractor to file a complaint with the CSLB.

    What does that do for the OP?

    This isn't about being right or being wrong or even about permitting and not permitting. It is about getting the best possible outcome. If you notify the CSLB, you are admitting that your house now contains unpermitted work. Some areas will not really care, others will make you expose the plumbing and start the entire project over again. Talk to someone who is knowledgeable in your area before you do anything else (I would think attorney).

    ------------

    The permitting thing cuts both ways. The contractor probably has as much leverage with it as you do and a much better knowledge or actual local enforcement. I just wouldn't use it until you have paid legal advice.

    ------------

    I am definitely going to post pictures of all their work on every website they advertise on.

    Don't do this before you talk to the attorney.

    This is your best bargaining chip. The one way that you will get things fixed is agreeing not to report him to the CSLB and not to negatively review his work. Any settlement he offers should prohibit those things. Remember you want the best outcome for you.

    aka914 thanked bry911
  • jellytoast

    The CSLB exists to protect consumers. If consumers are too scared to report violations, it is useless. That is the OP's bargaining chip, but what good is a bargaining chip if you aren't prepared to use it? She doesn't want to be left with shoddy work, and the contractor doesn't want a complaint against his license. Complaints, lawsuits, etc, are, IMO, last resorts. But if the OP wants the job permitted and inspected, she is going to have to deal with the consequences of doing whatever the inspector says to have the work corrected and the job move forward.

    aka914 thanked jellytoast
  • bry911

    But if the OP wants the job permitted and inspected, she is going to have to deal with the consequences of doing whatever the inspector says to have the work corrected and the job move forward.

    The OP didn't say this. The OP stated clearly that he/she is attempting to use permitting as leverage to get other problems repaired - I'm just hoping to use the fact they did not get a permit as leverage against them. I am not passing judgement on that goal, only noting that the permitting thing cuts both ways. I don't practice law in California, but in my state the homeowner would be held responsible for not getting the permit and the G.C. could be held responsible for doing work without a permit.

    Administrative law isn't quite so simple as reading the regulation and then understanding it. Unfortunately, there is a lot more complexity involved with the law. It is much more important to know how the law is enforced in your area.

    I have rental property in an area that is really going through a boom, many things don't get inspected because the inspector takes too long to get there. When I insisted on electrical inspections the inspector called the electrician and asked him to take pictures of the job and sent a picture of the sticker to the electrician, all without ever stepping foot on the property. If the electrician didn't pull the permit and I were to report him to the state board for not having a permit, nothing would happen to him. NOTHING. There is too much precedent on his side and the licensing commission wouldn't do anything. Just ten miles away in different county (same metropolitan area) they fine the homeowner for even putting up a fence without a permit.

    I am not advising the OP to spend a few bucks on an attorney because I don't understand the law. I am advising it because I do understand the law enough to know that unless I practiced law in his specific area that my advice is worthless because I don't know precedent in his area.

  • thatsmuchbetter

    Tale alook @ OPs profile

    shes been crying bloody murder on multiple forums on multiple posts, changing the photos and avatar to win her point. on other websites too

    You hired a hack , you failed to do even basic research prior and you got what you got. A gamblers bad nite on the town. You knew it was to good of a deal and chose to overlook that.

    Learn and grow from it .

  • roarah

    At this time be careful posting any thing about the GC's work by name. If you were to lose a court case against him he could sue you for slander and damages, i.e. Lost jobs.

    As to permits, if your scope of work in your locale called for them to be pulled and they were not, the homeowner is responsible for retroactively bringing the room to code in my town. After which the home owner could sue the GC for monetary damages. Your chances of winning would be better if permit pulling was covered in your contract.

    My gc's contract had a specific clause stating his responsibility to pull necessary permits and pass necessary inspections and my responsibility to pay for said permits. With out a similar clause it might seem to a court of law that you chose to avoid that cost and went with the cheaper option and contractor...

    The small bird bath after ten minutes is it gone within an hour or does it sit for hours to days?

    As to dry wall, did you paint or pay for painting in your contract? It matters because often the painting contractor is responsible for fine finishing new walls in my area. If you self painted the final finish flaws will often rest on your shoulders if you paid and it is deemed unacceptable in my area we have to let the orginal contractor try to make it right before seeking our money back.

    good luck, and yes you should consult a local attorney every state and town has different standards...

  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC

    aka914:


    You need to let your contractor know that you know he needed to pull a permit , didn't, and that you're not happy with the work. It is the threat of calling officials that gives you the leverage you now have. You want to put him in the position of fixing things being easier than your turning him in. Once you tattle, you've narrowed his options.


    I got called to fix an un-permitted shower once. The lady foolishly paid in full up front and the "contractor" was not responsive. She called inspection, he was charged with contracting without a license and fraud. I'm sure he found her 6K somewhere, because were I him, I'd certainly like to tell the judge that full restitution has been made before he sentenced me. She got her money back and he was convicted.

    aka914 thanked Joseph Corlett, LLC
  • katandvit

    No, you don’t threaten anyone, especially a contractor who did work for you. That can be seen as a civil extortion, and you might be the one looking at stiff penalties should a contractor sue you for such threats. You cannot threaten to report violations to the CSLB, report unpermitted work, nothing. I know how you must feel, as I have been in similar situations. It really stinks - you may feel taken advantage of, stolen from, duped, etc. This contractor may very likely not care one bit about providing you with substandard work. I bet they don’t lose one bit of sleep over any of this. But the first thing any decent attorney will do is tell you that you need to keep threats to yourself. The second thing a decent attorney would do is to tell you (as you probably have heard by now) that your costs of seeking compensation (i.e - legal fees, etc.) for bad work in court will likely eclipse any money you could possibly be awarded if you won a lawsuit.

    I am truly sorry for your rude awakening into the world of contract work. When I ask a lot of people who have remodeled their homes how they felt about it, I hear a good number (the majority) tell me they regret EVER having any work done at all. I certainly feel that way and easily lost $200K in some recent remodeling work we had done. And yes, I live in California where the consumer laws are plentiful, but just compensation for bad work (and there is a LOT of bad work done by many contractors) can be hard to find. We have way too many laws here and it shows when you try to seek the protections they offer.

    The permit status of work is, as others have noted, a burden that is ultimately yours - though it is not legitimate for a contractor to do the work without a permit. If that isn’t a double-edged sword, what is? You are ultimately responsible, but they shouldn’t perform unpermitted work? How are we - the consumers - to know every requirement of having home improvement work done? If we did these things for a living, then we would have them done on our own. I contend that if we hire a contractor, that a large responsibility of the contractor is to tell us how these things need to be done, and to make them happen. When we pay a GC or any contractor to do work, we pay for their experience getting this work set up and executed. Inexperienced people like myself should know enough to delegate the rest to a contractor, nothing more. Regardless, the permit process puts us in a very difficult situation when these contractors do things wrong, including failure to obtain the proper permitting. I highly suggest you tread carefully when reporting unpermitted work on your own home. You may just harm yourself even more.

    Having recently looked into home repair work, I am faced with contracts riddled with doubletalk about permit responsibility, etc. I barely know anything about it, but I am supposed to manage permits, inspections, and tests? Why not the people we pay large sums of money to manage these things for us - the contractors? The inspection following permit work does not often look hard into any present of latent defects in the work - at least none that I have seen. I have seen cities miss large problems in permitted building, sign off on the work - only to say that it is not their responsibility to be accountable later when their failure to find problems causes you problems. Municipalities can do no wrong, I guess.

    From what I have been told of the CSLB, their primary concern is to bust unlicensed contractors. While this may be good, what about all the licensed contractors that take your money and ruin your home? The CSLB offers mediation services for smaller dollar amount claims. The CSLB also offers arbitration services for larger claims - limiting their involvement to claims below about $50K. It can easily cost $25K or more in legal fees to file suit - and a great deal more if the contractor fights back with legal counsel (usually provided for by their insurers). Short of a large expensive job, we all can waste a good deal of time and money using this route. I guess we can grow older and older waiting for compensation that will never come.

    My point here is that, having learned the hard way, there are very few protections available to most consumers. Life is short, and there are many out there that will take our last dime. I do not belive there is any contract, permit, or governing body out there that will protect our interests. The best we can do is spend no more than we are prepared to lose. I wish the OP the best of luck -you have my sympathy for sure.

  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC

    "No, you don’t threaten anyone, especially a contractor who did work for you. That can be seen as a civil extortion, and you might be the one looking at stiff penalties should a contractor sue you for such threats. You cannot threaten to report violations to the CSLB, report unpermitted work, nothing."

    This is nonsense. Of course you can and should threaten to report unlicensed work. No contractor in his right mind would sue for "civil extortion" after performing even a cursory cost/benefit analysis.

    In Florida, the DBPR's website ENCOURAGES people to report SUSPECTED unlicensed activity. I doubt California is much different.

    katandvit, please read all the preceding posts before posting. You obviously missed mine.

  • Jim Mat

    I live in California, I used an unlicensed contractor to remodel my bathrooms, he did not pull permits.

    Someone turned the contractor in. I live on a street with 3 union tradesmen, and a licensed electrical contractor. My unlicensed contractor said one of the neighbors turned him in. A few neighbors visited and viewed the work in progress.

    An organization called NARI sent me a form letter, letting me know about hiring unlicensed contractors and asked if I wanted to file a complaint. The contractor said he had to take a test and become licensed.

    I was not contacted by the city regarding the lack of permit.

    Subsequent to that, I required contractors to pull a permit. During an inspection, I asked the inspector what would happen if I didn’t get a permit, the response was, in addition to the possibility of the work being done incorrectly, I would have to pull a permit and maybe subject to a fine.

    When I had electrical work done, the inspector checked connections and wire gauge.

    I think the homeowner is ultimately responsible for getting permits and subsequent inspections. The homeowner may hire a contractor to get the necessary permits. I do not know of any penalties or punitive action taken against the contractor for not getting a permit. My licensed contractors have always asked if I wanted them to get permits and explained the additional costs involved: permit fee to city and the contractors time to apply for the permit.

    aka, based on my experience, you committed the offense, and any fees or penalties are on you.

  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC

    I spent about $4,000.00 and about 100 unpaid hours getting my Florida building contractor's license. If you think you are going to play on my field without paying the same admission I did, you are mistaken.


    I just checked my neighbor for a roofing permit and I'm not even licensed for that work. Fortunately he had one.

  • katandvit

    @Joseph Corlett: Yes, as people owing property, we are utimimately responsible for obtaining permits and paying permit fees. But, it is also against California law for a contractor to do work where permits are required and have not been pulled. @Jim Mat is correct - that I am reposible for getting permits needed for work on any property that is mine. BUT, there are other laws that state that a contractor cannot do the work without the proper permitting. This is the good and bad of California, too many laws - but they do cover all bases. Civil extortion is to threaten in a manipulative sense, ot merely threaten. But I would not threaten anyone by saying (on the record) that you will report their _____ if they don’t _____. That is a civil tort offense that can cost you dearly.

    So we both commit an offense if unpermitted work is done. I am stuck with fines and possibly remedial work, but a contractor can really have their livlihood endagered if the CSLB pulled their license for even a day. Insurance companies will raise their rates for anyone with even minor offenses and eventually a contractor can become uninsurable. That will put people out of business faster than any state agency.

    What I have also noticed (especially since I have spent about $1m in contracting work over the past few years), that many contractors get their license and clearly never read the 1100 page CSLB manual that is issued each year. (Or they skim it once and never read it again). Out of all the contracts I have seen, none have ever fully satified CSLB rules (and it’s associated California code) for home improvement contracts. Some are out of date with Cal. Code for contracts by 20 years or more. Permitting is actually a small part of the debacle. Most of these contracts are not woth the paper they are written on, and would be torn to shreds by a judge in court. However, they rarely end up in court - at least I am told that by attorneys.

    The bigger problem (I have been told) is that the CSLB is focused on licensing, not spanking contractors. I have been warned that many compaints are rarely dealt with “by the book”, and only serious offenses by contractors end up with any censure by the CSLB. This is similar to the reality that medical professionals (MD’s) are rarely thrown out of medicine - except for very serious crimes.

    Back on topic - I don’t think inspections by building departments uncover anything but the most substandard work. The reality is that there are too many cash strapped municipalities that just want permit fees. Only a few really are dedicated or staffed adequately to protect the public. If you are going to really want to be sure there is no problem, pay the permit fee to be in compliance - but also hire a 3rd party to inspect the work. Most city or county inspectors are overbooked and likely have no time to check things out in extreme detail. Even if they had the time (or were allowed to take it), no one can know everything - and there is a lot to know these days.

  • jellytoast

    Jim Mat, what is the advantage for you for hiring an unlicensed contractor?

  • katandvit

    None at all. Unlicensed contractors do not have liability insurance, so you are in deep trouble if you hire one and there is a problem. What makes you think I would condone that? I don't even like it if the contractor has only $1M in liability insurance.

    What I am saying is that a license does not assure you of anything, and a permit only assures you of local regulatory compliance. Permits do not really assure you that you haven't been fleeced by bad work. They are ... the way it is. But they assure you of nothing. It's more for the benefit of the municipality that permits you.

  • PRO
    GN Builders L.L.C

    Your contractor should know if permit needed or not.

    It depends on the project when permit needed or not. Most remodeling jobs with direct replacement, fixture update, etc you don't need a permit.

    If you opening up walls, moving vent pipes, moving fixture locations, structural modifications, re-routing electric, etc you need a permit.

  • jellytoast

    My apologies, katandvit. I had you mixed up with another poster above, Jim Mat. That question was meant for him. I will edit my post accordingly.

    And you are right, a license does not assure you of anything, not even that the contractor will have liability insurance and/or workmen's comp. In my state (Cali), liability insurance is not required for a license, and worker's comp is often skirted by contractor's claiming "exempt" by stating that they have no employees, even when they do. You have to be willing to check all of those things yourself. I've learned not to rely on anyone's "word." I've been lied to straight to my face plenty of times.

  • katandvit

    Thanks jellytoast. I’ve had one contractor (actually a subcontractor hired by GC) who claimed he had no employees and used cheap labor off the street with no real skills. I figured it out and talked to an attorney. Falsifying a declaration of no employees to the CSLB (by California) state law immediately revokes their license - making them unlicensed contactors. It took another contractor and about $50,000 to fix the messbfrom the first contractor. It was permitted because the permit was taken out by the GC. A lot of good a permit was there.

    This is still within its 4 year statute of limitations, is well documented and I even have statements from the contractor who re-did the work. I am thinking of filing with the CSLB as this is a “slam-dunk” issue of proving my case. The only issue is whether I file against the GC who hired this subcontractor, the subcontractor alone, or both. The GC totally ignored my demands that he have the work redone, and it got really nasty. I didn’t figure outnthatnthe sub was unlicensed until 4 months after I fired both of them. My hesitation to do it at all is that the CSLB could ignore me and simply let it go. I have heard they can do this and shy away from anything approaching their $50K claim limit. So, if the CSLB just responds that I should sue this guy, I’ll even be more annoyed. It would be not woth my expense to sue for $50K, and even with a totally clear cut case, I could still end up losing more.

    As I said earlier, never spend more with contractors than you are prepared to lose. California really plays up the “protect the consumer” talk. In reality I have seen and heard very little to support that. I think all these agencies really care more about is protecting those whom they have licensed - rather than the people harmed by them.

    I know I sound cynical, but I’ve seen so much corrupt behavior that all of this is totally disillusioning to me.

  • bry911

    Jim Mat, what is the advantage for you for hiring an unlicensed contractor?

    It's cheaper.

    It is just economics. Licensing is just a commanded cost in a market system and avoiding that cost drives the prices down.

    ------------------

    The advantages and/or disadvantages of pulling a permit are location specific. In some localities pulling a permit is a relatively cheap and easy process, while in other they are an expensive and fairly painful process. Enforcement and expectations are also regional. I come from an area where the majority of work is unpermitted and there are few if any consequences to unpermitted work. The inspectors don't care, the city doesn't care, and buyers don't care. I moved to an area where they want permits for changing light fixtures, and they do care.

    I suspect that enforcement for permits is loosely related to how blue collar an area is. It is totally unsubstantiated conjecture on my part, but my experience leads me to believe that blue collar areas tend to be more accepting of attitudes like, "I am not going to pay some administrative idiot to tell me how to do something I know darn good and well how to do."

  • thatsmuchbetter

    @ jelly in reality it is the insurance thieves themselves that have implemented forcing small contrators to cArry workers comp has to do with subbing and audits mostly.

    They take your 1K a year for comp upfront and hold onto it then audit you @ end year only to refund you a bit part of it

    welcome to american lobbying and the legal fleecing by corporate america

  • thatsmuchbetter

    If i have no employees im still being forced to carry comp more and more.

    If i go work on Joseph Corletts permiited project as A sub with no helper or employees of my own Joes Insurance company doesnt care. They still insist i have workers comp.

    It becomes even more enforced by Joe himself if he has been audited or had any previous jobsite claims . His insurance company holds him liable to hire only to subs with valid work comp regrdless of having no employees.

    In the const buis liabilty alone is not enough and guess whos making all the $$ on enforcing this crap and that same money will go towards lobbying for more loopholes of profiteering

  • jellytoast

    $1K a year for workers comp? I wish!

  • thatsmuchbetter

    thats all mine was perhaps because ive GOT NO employees or helpers from the depot parking lot and have never had A claim

  • Jim Mat

    I hired Jerry because: I saw work he had done, I knew where he lived, I used to be in a water skiing club with his son and daughter, I had met him previously. I was 24-25 years old and was cavalier about contractor licensing, permits, liability.

  • katandvit

    I suspect that enforcement for permits is loosely related to how blue
    collar an area is. It is totally unsubstantiated conjecture on my part,
    but my experience leads me to believe that blue collar areas tend to be
    more accepting of attitudes like, "I am not going to pay some administrative idiot to tell me how to do something I know darn good and well how to do."


    That happens everywhere! At least in California, we have the double-edged law that says that permits are the ultimate responsibility of the homeowner - BUT - that the contractor cannot legally do the work without the permit. I've seen way too many contractors try to put the burden on the homeowner for something they don't want to do. As a result, they STILL do not pull a permit.

    As a homeowner/consumer - how am I supposed to actually know what permit needs to be pulled, how to pull it, and even how to describe the work? Obviously a contractor is needed to do that in most cases. They can talk about permit costs and payment for them all they want in their contract, but it means nothing when you come right down to it. If they perform unpermitted work and I get in trouble for it I can turn around with an attorney and take them to court - in a very big way. Again, why am I supposed to permit work that I do not understand - especially when there are many things that do not require a permit, and many others that do?

  • jellytoast

    I don't quite understand why that's a problem. If you want a permit and you want the contractor to get it, make sure he does so before the work starts. If he doesn't get the permit, don't let him start the job! That seems a lot easier than thinking about suing him after the fact. If you aren't sure if a permit is needed and you don't trust what the contractor tells you, call your city.

    "I’ve had one contractor (actually a subcontractor hired by GC) who claimed he had no employees and used cheap labor off the street with no real skills. I figured it out and talked to an attorney."

    If you hired a contractor who stated that he had no employees, why didn't you stop him at the door when he showed up with a worker? Wouldn't that be easier than trying to turn him into the contractor's board or sue him later?

  • katandvit

    I think you are missing the point. In the case I described above, I had hired a General Contractor (GC) to take care of ALL of the work. There was a lot of it - probably a dozen or so subcontractors. The GC hired the subcontractors. The GC took about 18% “overhead” just to hire the subcontractors. There was one permit for ALL the work. The entire bill was several hundred $K.

    The subcontractors just came. I didn’t directly hire them and they were working on a house we didn’t live in. In fact, when a GC takes over a job, I’m pretty sure you cannot hire sucontractors - you have to use ones that he hires. I got billed twice monthly from the GC for his workers and all subcontract work over the course of a year. In reality, it was the GC’s responsibility to screen and manage subcontractors. They were (supposedly) all people who had worked with him before. His contract and state law mandate that he screen for and be responsible for (legally) all subcontract work. I just dropped by from time to time to meet with the GC to find out how things were going.

    I could have probably sued the GC for any infringement of the law or the contract. I just didn’t want to run up hundreds of thousands in legal bills. But I could not sue the subcontractors because they technically did not work for me. So I know exactly how it’s supposed to work. I had my attorney constantly monitoring things, but at $400/hour - there is so much you want them to do. The GC was ultimately responsible. He is guilty of California law if he hired unlicensed contractors. I guess what I’m saying is that this was no small job. I met the subcontractor in question only once and didn’t like him, but I let it go as I did not yet know who he was hiring. After the fact it was either sue the GC (which I almost did), or complain to the CSLB (I still can). But my actual dollar recovery would have been minimal.

  • freeoscar

    I don't understand - you had a several hundred thousand $ job, hired a $400/hr lawyer to oversee everything, but neither you nor said lawyer knew enough to know that you one permit wouldn't cover the whole job? You didn't file any plans with the city/town? Did you have an architect of some type?

    I don't know how it works everywhere, but where I am a permit pretty much solves the subcontractor licensing issue as the permit is pulled, or signed off by a licensed person for that area (i.e. an electrician's license is needed for the electrical permit, plumber for plumbing, etc.).

  • PRO
    Keller Pacific Construction

    I'm a little late coming into this discussion being that it's Dec.

    To Op , &katandvit, others posting here .

    As a Licensed GC that does work in the Greater Bay Area.

    Let me first state that I personally had my company high jacked by someone impersonating us. They did cause a few issues. With the help of the CSBL they were apprehended and sentenced . So yes it's important that you report unlicensed criminals - which is not a GC with a lapsed license !

    We on occasion still deal with the backlash from what he had done . We are fortunate that it was only a few small projects.

    Let's put a prospective on this from a professional in the industry in this region .

    Lets first establish facts :

    The law can be misconstrued as I learned going through the issue stated above.

    The GC or anyone else -cannot perform any ( said work requiring a permit)- without one !

    There are circumstances that will allow a GC to start work if an emergency , or prevention of an emergency , etc . However a permit must be filed within a reasonable time in these permitted situations . These regulations are in place to protect everyone ,

    The home owner is responsible in ensuring that the permits have been filed/pulled not the GC.

    This may be a shock to many . But the reality is that " Many " home owners are fully aware that permits must be pulled. I find many times , home owners will agree to or even ask the GC to do the projects of this size without permits in order to get a better price ! The blame unfortunately lay on both sides .

    With all this being said ******

    It is "very very" uncommon that a professionally Licensed GC would ask or require a potential client or a client to pull the permit(s). If so I would personally walk!

    This however doesn't change the wording of the law as quoted in several post. It's the interpretation of that wording that you need clarification on . It is always in your best interest to talk directly to the Cslb, since they actually create , regulate , oversee/ enforce these regulations as mandated by the State.

    You do not have to provide them with your address or your full name if you choose not to , not even the GC . They will encourage you to , but it is not required !

    My suggestion to you is to , just go there for information ; so you can make a more informed decision. You might find just filing a complaint will serve your needs . The CSBL by law is required to investigate all complaints. The GC must respond to the alligation filed against the license through the CSLB.

    As for threatening the GC - Do not do it !!!!! As stated in this post you can face damages.









  • katandvit

    As a consumer, the problem I see in the Bay Area is that building is so scarce that many people are remodeling as houses grow older and older. California Code is a bit Draconian compared with most states, and it makes remodeling work even more expensive and time consuming.

    Add to that the fact that the cost of living here is off the charts and we also have a lack of capable tradespeople to actually do work. Who would want to spend the kind of money required to live in the Bay Area if your trade does not compensate you well enough to live here. Even a GC, unless well established and has a large business probably cannot afford to live and thrive in this type of environment. You have kids in the tech industry - fresh out of school pulling in $150K, and their higher ups earning a lot more than that.

    So it seems to me that most contractors are overbooked and can cherry pick their clients. This is not a bad thing - and I wish them well. What it does mean, however, is that the natural selection process where the bad GC's and incompetent trade workers can still thrive and make a lot of money here. It takes months to get someone to work on anything: there is too much work and not enough people to do it. So the vermin descends into the cracks and picks up all the people waiting desperately to get something worked on or fixed. You wait many months to get a leaking roof replaced, or even a furnace. As consumers, we have to beg, grovel, whatever - to get someone to do work at our house.

    If you don't have a GC, it is nearly impossible here to get a good amount of work done. You wait a month for one contractor, two months for the other, etc. Many people are now selling their houses with major disclosure lists simply because they cannot get lots of things fixed in time to sell them. I just sold my old house and it was not pleasant. I was lucky and my Realtor had some people who would do her favors, but it took a lot of time even to get someone to patch a piece of bad drywall. I was even given 4-6 week lead times to purchase and have carpet installed, etc.

    Desperate people do desperate things and hire anyone. I was lucky and and realized that my house had a shorter "to do" list of disclosures than most. Some people are not so lucky and they will hire anyone who will promise to do the job. I would expect that lots of people hire unlicensed contractors, or even incompetent ones. They pay top dollar and then some for really crappy work. What can you do, sit on a mortgage for months while you prepare your house for sale? Lots of houses that I saw when I was looking needed lots of work. There was no one to do that work just to get your house into "reasonable shape." The situation is crazy - crazier than the inflated prices. And the people it draws out are really seedy and unscrupulous. The moral of the story is that the Bay Area has really gotten into a bad position and will not get out of it for years. Too many people want to live here and there are not enough people to make that happen. It's that simple.

  • PRO
    Keller Pacific Construction
    Yes, you are right about certain things !

    Once again let's put perspective on this :
    1. It's expensive to run a construction company regardless of where you live in California. The prices do not fluctuate much between locations, in my experience.
    2. California has the highest regulations & standards in the nation when it comes to building codes. Which shouldn't be a shock,Calif pretty much sets the standard of this nation in anything that involves the EPA , etc . Bordering states have been adopting Calif standards for some time, and a licensed GC in Cal can go to any state to perform work , through reciprocity. That is not the case of other states .
    3. Anything that has to do with infrastructure
    licensing, bonding , insurance, labor, education , training is expensive in Calif. I do not see that leveling off anytime soon. Especially now that we are seeing positive gains in the industry.
    4. Do to the shortage of craftsman in the private sector , not as much in the union. Many companies
    have to educate / train apprentices , which takes years to do . It's time consuming & expensive !!
    Rightly so , building any type of infrastructure must meet standards to keep everyone safe , and there is much to learn .
    5. Many counties are adopting livable wage standards - like the city ! Which I support 100% . Unless you live with the parents, for whatever reasons, or roommates . Nobody can live on min wage in this country - let alone California - nobody ! I just sat down with a few council members and we did discuss this very topic .
    In order to live in the greater Bay Area & surrounding counties . Which is basically stating all of California in my opinion !! A person needs to make 20-25.00 per hour perspectively to live - no frills added. Think about that !
    6. I think what consumers fail to understand , is when the recession hit , prices of materials , along with everything else went up in the construction industry . Profits went down , if made at all . Even wages were reduced to keep employment . The recession killed the private sector . The union has a guarantee from state & federal in regards to funds & contracts . So the effect on them was min in comparison. Many from the private sector moved to union , took different professions, or left the state. Non union companies , filed against the state to ensure the monopoly was controlled enough to provide projects for them verse all going to union .
    7. There currently is a shortage, the populous are getting preyed on by unlicensed , unqualified thieves . It's giving the reputable , and respectful GC a bad presence in general with consumers - Consumers trying to save a buck and its actually contributing to destabilized prices !!
    8. Prices are going to fluctuate , labor is in demand ! I do not see it leveling off anytime soon !
    Especially do to all the disasters that have occurred of late .

    Can consumers protect themselves - yes !!!!!
    1. Don't hire unlicensed anyone !
    2. Ask questions
    3. Ask for pictures of their work, a few projects are enough . Quality of work counts , not when project was done. I would prefer to see a history of verse so let's look at your last project !!
    4. If you need referrals , ask for them .
    5. Don't assume a licensed GC that show exempt on a license is always undermining you as mention in this post . Sometimes it's more cost effective to sub out projects & just have oversight .
    6. Do not rely on Angie's list, Home Advisor etc , for accurate pricing etc over a GC . They are "not"
    the professionals , just a service providing you will access to resources . I cannot tell you how many people ask me about this . 99% of all I speak to have a misconception of cost because of these online services and under budget because of it .
    I hope this helps !
  • jellytoast

    "Don't assume a licensed GC that show exempt on a license is always undermining you as mention in this post . Sometimes it's more cost effective to sub out projects & just have oversight."

    Additionally, don't assume that the GC doesn't have employees just because he claims "exempt." A GC may sub out most of the work, but if he has a single employee he needs to pay his workers comp costs. And don't assume that a GC's subs have workers comp either. I am so sick of contractors here claiming exempt when they actually have employees. Verify everything.

  • thatsmuchbetter

    I am so sick of contractors here claiming exempt when they actually have employees.

    and jelly how can you prove that to us all

  • jellytoast

    There is nothing to prove, so what are you talking about? It's easy enough to check this for yourself in Cali.

  • thatsmuchbetter

    as if you have hired someone yourslef and had dealings with this in an actual court of law.

    I see your point but It leaves a door wide open for crooked insureers to profit off the few that DO NOT HAVE EMPLOYEES and Do run an ethical show..

    as you speak it sounds like it never happens that I am the one and only person that will be on your jobsite

    Inviting stricter perameters with a crooked unlevel playing field controlled by crooked govt, insurance loobyists will do squat for any of us. as a whole.

    as long as CA is afloat the cashstrapped lucky to own a home minions of the golden state will search for the cheap deal and cry wolf later.

    Its about profiteering while giving the illusion they are protecting you jelly. see thru it.

  • jellytoast

    Still not sure what you are talking about or why you are challenging me for my comment. I hire people all the time, as a homeowner and also as a contractor. I have been lied to to my face plenty of times by contractors. I can't prove it, you will just have to take my word for it, sorry. Do you need examples?

    Crooked insurers? Here in California it is the law that anyone who has employees must have workers comp. If you claim exempt on your license and can't provide me with a certificate of insurance, then show up at my house or jobsite with an employee or employees, who is the crooked one ... you or the insurance company? The law is the law and employees deserve to have insurance to cover them if they are hurt on the job. A homeowner should not be on the hook for a cheap-ass contractor who gets out of paying workers comp by paying his employees under the table or 1099-ing them as contract labor when they are actually employees. The crooked, unlevel playing field is caused by unscrupulous contractors who can afford to charge cheaper prices because they aren't paying the costs associated with a legit business ... including insurance. Whether the insurance companies are crooks or not is irrelevant. They are profiting off the law, but they also pay claims. Personally, I hate paying for workers comp because it is super expensive here, but it is my responsibility.

    I have no problem with contractors who claim exempt. I hired one myself just a few weeks ago to do my flooring. He did all the work himself and did not have a helper (employee). I interviewed another who also claimed exempt, but employed a helper. No thank you. If you are going to bring an employee into my home, pay to insure him/her.

    "Its about profiteering while giving the illusion they are protecting you jelly. see thru it."

    My opinion of insurance companies doesn't matter. If someone gets injured on the job, the burden of "protection" is going to fall to someone. As a homeowner, I don't want it to fall on me. And as a business owner, I don't want it to fall on my employee or my client.

  • thatsmuchbetter

    yeah you missed the point alright and thats fine. Youve said enough here. 20 yrs on the left coast myself jelly

  • PRO
    Keller Pacific Construction
    Wow!
    I think a breath needs to be taken here . Comment made from me is fact , not personal .
    The point of my comment is to point out that not "every " GC is out to take advantage .
    And yes -I can state that because I'm one of them - and I know many ! Yes I agree there are dishonest people in "every " profession. You, I , or anyone will not tackle and change this . It's not rational or logical to assume otherwise - there are good people regardless .
    As for the Comp & Exemption . Listen there are factors that do not require it. Sole Proprietors, Partnerships, Joint Ventures, Corp ( depending % & on by laws , etc) . What about qualifying partners ? Workman's Comp is only for employees , you "cannot "insure yourself or a person in any of the mention situations above . Except for the last 2 if proven to be an employee - not in Cal anyway .
    I have worked with a Business for years that is a partnership . The 3 partners work on my projects- No comp required on them , nor can I legally require them to carry it. Would never know they weren't employees ,if I didn't ask them ! The Home Owner does play a part , and should take enough time to vet a GC , as mentioned in my prior post . It would be irresponsible otherwise . Would you go buy a car without doing research , ask question , understand the terms before signing the contract ? Well I believe a house is a bit more expensive & prominent than a car , don't you think ? Assuming gets you nowhere asking & vetting does.
    Every GC that has employees should carry Comp , just as every customer should only use licensed GC when required . Wouldn't it be great if all complied. Don't think for a moment that GC don't get ripped off as well. That a different topic !
    Once again I suggest you contact the CSLB and ask questions , without providing detailed names . Get the facts so you can make a sound decision based on the proper interpretation of the law . What I can tell you , if you do file a complaint and a hearing is required . You can be charged for any legal fees the company had to put out, if you loose.
    Protect yourself !
  • jellytoast

    "yeah you missed the point alright and thats fine."

    Oh, you were making a point? Fail.

    "You've said enough here."

    Uh, okay.

  • katandvit

    Joseph Corlett: I find it sad to say but many of the tech kids make a whole lot more than that and lots even have incentive stock options that can be worth tens of millions. I would say in general that it is impossible to live in the Bay Area "comfortably" (from Marin to San Francisco, east to Contra Costa and Alameda, and south to San Mateo and Santa Clara counties). Any further than that is really pushing a commute - and home prices reflect that. Also it seems that the building in the north and south bay has pretty much come to a standstill, also San Francisco, and I am not sure of the east bay (too much traffic for me to go there any time). My definition of "comfortable" would be $150K family household income minimum, more like $250K. When I moved here it was a lot less, but the Bay Area had not grown like it is now and turned into a tech nightmare. The people of lesser income all have to commute a great distance, etc. - and this is a serious problem. If there are any Bay area GC's here - please chime in as to how your employees can afford to live here? Not easily I assume - especially in the last 10 years. Why would they want to?

    So we have all these people who get jobs in all these tech companies and they cannot find a place to live. Most houses under $1M go into bidding wars, and probably $2M in the south bay. Many of these houses are sold needing work - and they all will need work eventually. When you are in multiple bid situations, there is very little pressure to fix things up to sell. The Realtors even tell you that. I am in Marin and have not seen much new construction in 10-15 years. That means all the houses are growing older - more broken- yet harder to buy.

    When we recently sold our "old" house in Marin - many of the offers came from people with very long commutes who were trying to shorten them (like presently living in Santa Rosa and commuting to San Mateo). You could tell from the offers that they had reasonable incomes and cash to work with but even that was not enough if they wanted to have kids (lots of Millennials).

    Most houses were sold with work to be done. The average age of a house in Marin must be from the 80's and the south bay from the 60's. Who is around to do this work. I have hear of people (kids of friends of ours) - waiting a year or more to get any work done. And they really needed it. Contractors to fix and remodel these homes are not easy to find. Good GC's are even harder to find. The contracting world becomes so blurred that you cannot tell the good from the bad. Places like "Homeadvisor.com" and Angies List" commonly suggest people (GC's and trade license) that are not really licensed. The Realtors tend to throw their "regular go to" people at you so you will be more eager to buy a house with a potential roof problem, etc. Many Realtor referrals are nightmares. Basically, unless a property is seriously overpriced or has many bad problems - people will grab them up. Even now it is likely a 2 month wait to get an experienced painter to do work. So the unlicensed people come in, generally are accidents waiting to happen, and people will hire them - not even asking to see a license, etc.

    The CSLB cannot enforce this - and are likely underfunded. California has too many laws on the books and it spreads state money pretty thin given our income tax rate is one of the highest in the country.


  • thatsmuchbetter

    Thats nice A detailed breakdown of YOUR accomplishments. well said.

    Read what I said. Its a backsided deal in which small SOLE proprietors want to sub to YOU on one of your huge gigantic impotant projects may need workers comp on TOP of their liability even though they will bring absolutley zero employees on the property and have zero employess proveable in tax records. Its just me look no helpers.. Im not just spittin here its happened to me multiple times this year .

    On acct Of big guys like you hiring subs w/o your due dilligence and they bring their nephew on the job to help and said nephew botches up his arm on the miterbox.

    After a few lengthy conversations with MY Commercial buis ins agent I decided to decline such coverage. Its a loophole for insurers to audit folks like you and make money by forcing you to force me to have coverage i dont need because you made some bad hiring choices which really is a sign I dont want to wok for you.

    This may not be your reality yet but its the near furture and you heard it from me here first maybe talk to your insurance agent about insurance audits and workers comp and get up to speed.

    Its about profiteering and keeping the GOOD little guy down really. Hand in hand with lobbying

  • PRO
    Keller Pacific Construction
    I may be new to this blog , but I'm not new to this industry! I've been in this business for 15+ years , and I've had my share of hard knocks , if not more.
    So, thank you for the compliment .
  • thatsmuchbetter

    Thats Great. To the point talk to your agent and then maybe come back here and share what you find. Everybodys so smart and knows every single thing on this forum Actually it could have been a compliment and may still be..

  • PRO
    Keller Pacific Construction
    Sure accompany can ask you to carry WC , but it is not mandatory by state law , as of yet - with a few exceptions ! My comment was about State Agency . Not insurance companies , or a primary GC . There are very few situations that the STATE has mandated a employee exempt company carry WC - example Roofers . Maybe I wasn't clear enough in my statement . As a primary I do not require subs with no employees to carry WC , if there is no provision in the law for it. Nor do I allow unauthorized personnel on a site without an appointment. I'm very happy to say that I have never had a claimed filed . As for the future, it's like everything else you have to adjust if you want to stay in business.
  • PRO
    Keller Pacific Construction
    I wish everyone the best , nice chatting !
  • PRO
    Keller Pacific Construction
    Lol,well I just spoke to the Cslb & my insurance agent . So NO it's not mandated. Once again with exception of a few specialty certifications - which is not what this discussion is about so it doesn't even apply - nor is it something new. It might be beneficial to re-read the statement, because you seem to be confused. Once again my comment was & is based on law, not your insurance company trying to rip you off . As for leaving this chat - I'm leaving because it's gotten off topic which defeats the point. I along with probably everyone here , would prefer to share constructed facts & thought that actually help. It's nonconstructive arguing with you , you simply choose to take things so personal. Once again wish everyone the best !!!
  • Zinnia Khalid
    wanted to check in and see what ever happened with this? did you talk to an attorney and what did they say?
  • Vith

    Probably sold and moved out of Cali. lol

  • aka914

    Hello, I did not consult with an attorney. However, I filed a claim with the contractor's bond company and they paid me almost all of my money back. The California Contractor State License Board just sent me a letter saying they have concluded their investigation and will be issuing the contractor a citation. I am not sure exactly what they are citing them for, however I will get a copy of the citation once it's issued.

    Thanks for checking in and let me know if you have any other questions.

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