Ask the Contractors Board …
Experts Answer Common Home Improvement Questions
By Matt Kelly, 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 website at
Q: I have heard that you need to make sure your contractor has general liability insurance. How can I verify if the contractor I hire is insured? I want to make sure the person who repairs my home has the right coverage.
A. Contractors are required to give you a notice about commercial general liability insurance and tell you if they carry it. If he or she is insured, your contractor must provide you with the telephone number and name of the insurance company. Go ahead and check with the insurance company to see if the contractor is insured with them before work starts. Although it is optional for contractors to carry this, it is best to hire a contractor with general liability insurance, to cover any property damage or third-party injury that occurs on the work-site.
Q: I am preparing to landscape my back yard and I want to install an in-ground spa as well. Do I need to get a swimming pool/spa contractor in addition to the landscape contractor to install the spa, or can the landscape contractor install it?
A: Since the spa is in-ground, it must be installed by a swimming pool/spa contractor. If your landscaper has that classification as well, you’re good to go. If not, they can sub-contract the job to a licensed swimming pool/spa contractor. Your landscaper cannot install a spa if he/she only has a landscaping license. Make sure to also check the license of the sub-contractor who is hired to install the spa, in addition to the license of the landscape contractor. Also ensure the contractor has workers’ compensation insurance to cover all sub-contractors, in order to relieve you of all liability in case of an accident or job related injury. For more information, visit and look at the “Choosing the Right Landscaper” for your landscaping questions.
Q: I am an elderly woman who needs to have some repairs made to my home. I know the elderly get taken advantage of quite often, and I want to make sure I am hiring someone who will do a good job and not rip me off. I am also a little concerned about my safety while a stranger works in the house. Any advice?
A: You are right, there are operators who will prey on the elderly, but you don’t have to be one of the victims. It is important that you research different contractors for your job, get at least three bids, verify the contractor’s license, and ask friends or family for referrals of contractors that have done work on their home. The CSLB website at has more information designed just for seniors. If you don’t feel safe when a contractor is working in your home, then invite a friend over, or ask a family member to assist you in the process of managing the contractor. If you are vigilant about the project and the paperwork that accompanies it, you are more likely to have a worry free contracting experience.
(Matt Kelly is the Chair of the Contractors State License Board. The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The CSLB licenses and regulates California's 302,000 contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors annually. In fiscal year 2004-05, the CSLB helped consumers get more than $36 million in restitution.)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.