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
Q: I have sought out bids from three different contractors to repair a large deck in my backyard. They all seem legitimate, but one said I didn’t need a written contract, he said oral contracts are upheld in California. Is this true? Do I need one in writing?
A: Home improvement contracts are a tool to make sure that contractors and consumers agree on the work to be performed —how it will be done, when it will be done, what materials will be used, and how much it will cost. A well-written contract is also a tool that helps ensure enforcement of the agreement, if necessary. Like most other tools, a contract should be top quality and well constructed, with all its working parts. New contract requirements took effect on January 1, 2006.
A written contract outlining the work to be preformed is needed if the cost of the job is equal to or more than $500, including labor and materials. Also, always visit the CSLB’s Web site at to verify a contractor’s license. You can also download a copy of Terms of Agreement – A Consumer Guide to Home Improvement Contracts from the CSLB website. This free publication offers detailed information for homeowners and contractors about the requirements of home improvement contracts.
Unless the contract is negotiated at the contractor's place of business, the buyer qualifies for the three-day right to cancel.
Q: I signed a contract yesterday to have some storm damage repaired. However, right after I did, a friend recommended a contractor to me who I feel more comfortable hiring. Can I cancel the contract with the first contractor?
A: Yes, you can cancel the contract. In the contract, the contractor was required to include a “Notice of Right to Cancel” form, which states the consumer may cancel the contract within three business days of signing it, without penalty. Locate the document and then present it to your contractor. If there isn’t a cancellation form, call your contractor and ask for one. You should be aware that you qualify for this three-day right to cancel unless you sign the contract at the contractor’s place of business. Plus, the three days includes Saturdays, but not Sundays or some holidays, so don’t wait until the last minute.
Q: I have determined my roof needs repairs before winter hits. What is the best way to find a quality and affordable contractor to do the work?
A: The CSLB suggests asking friends and family to refer you to contractors they have used in the past. You can also contact a professional roofer’s association in the area to refer you to a contractor, as most hold their members to very high standards of work.
A local builder’s exchange is also another resource you may choose to utilize. Get at least three bids before choosing a contractor and always verify a contractor’s license through the CSLB website at For more information on how to hire and manage a roofing contractor, download or order your free copy of Tips for Hiring a Roofing Contractor: A Consumer's Rights & Responsibilities.
(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.)


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