Ask the Contractors Board …
Experts Answer Common Home Improvement Questions
By Bert Sandman, Chair
California Contractors State License Board


Sacramento: Do you have questions about hiring and managing building contractors? The California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) has answers. For more information, or to check out a contractor’s license, bond and workers’ compensation insurance information, visit the CSLB Web site at www.cslb.ca.gov.
Q: I am considering hiring a contractor who told me he is “self-insured” for general liability insurance. What does that mean, and is it safe to hire him?
A: If a contractor is “self-insured” he or she has made a decision to be responsible for losses normally covered by insurance. Before hiring, ask yourself, “If something went wrong, would this contractor be able to cover the costs?” If the answer is “no”, then find a contractor with general liability insurance through an established company. While licensed contractors are not required to carry general liability insurance, they must include information in your written contract about whether or not they carry general liability insurance and that it will protect against third-party bodily injury and property damage.
If uninsured, the contractor should be able to explain how he would cover losses that would ordinarily be covered by insurance. Because the CSLB recommends contractors have general liability insurance, most carry it. But, if your contractor damages your property and doesn’t carry general liability insurance, you or your insurance policy could end up paying for damages. Be sure to visit the CSLB Web site at www.cslb.ca.gov to check the license of a contractor before signing any contract.
Q: I have identified asbestos in my home. It’s an older home, so I am not surprised, but I need to get it removed. Where do I start?
A: Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber that has been used extensively in construction and many other industries. Nearly every building contains asbestos in some form. It has been widely used because of its special properties. For example, asbestos is very resistant to destruction by heat or chemicals, and its fibers are extremely durable. These characteristics led to its use in wall insulation; paint; sprayed- or troweled-on surfacing materials; ceiling and flooring materials; pipe, boiler, and duct insulations; cement filler; and a variety of other products.
Because asbestos is a health hazard, it is important to carefully select a licensed contractor to remove it. Before choosing a contractor, get bids from at least three licensed contractors to perform the job. Request work plans detailing the schedule each would follow while performing the work. Then, visit the CSLB website to confirm the contractor has a certification to remove asbestos. Next, make sure the contractor has all the appropriate tools, training, and licensing and certification necessary to comply with the law and to protect you from unnecessary exposure to asbestos fibers. Finally, call Cal/OSHA to make sure the contractor has current registration as an asbestos abatement contractor. Other important requirements your asbestos removal contractor should meet include:
• Copies of notification materials for the EPA and Cal/OSHA
• Job site log-in sheets
• Monitoring reports for air and personnel
• Accident reports
• Hauling and disposal information and permits
• A final air monitoring report
For more information on asbestos removal, download your free copy of A Consumer Guide to Asbestos from the CSLB Web site at www.cslb.ca.gov. This useful publication outlines information about the specialized skills and equipment required for the services of registered and certified asbestos abatement contractor.
Q: I know I am encouraged to verify a contractor’s license through the CSLB before he starts work on my home, but I am also interested in finding out about suspensions or other legal actions taken against contractors. Are they required to disclose this information to me, just as they do their license status?
A: A contractor who has had his or her license suspended or revoked due to disciplinary action two or more times within an eight-year period must notify consumers prior to entering into a home improvement contract for a residential property. This notice is required whether or not the revocation or suspension was stayed. This notice must include information on any citation, license suspension or license revocation during the last four years, resulting from any violation by the contractor or legal action taken against the contractor. Complaint information about a license is disclosed after the complaint has been fully investigated and has been referred for legal action.
Bert Sandman is the Chair of the Contractors State License Board. The CSLB operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, licensing and regulating California’s 292,000 contractors. The CSLB investigates 20,000 complaints against contractors annually. In fiscal year 2004-05, the CSLB helped consumers get more than $36 million in restitution.

 


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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