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Tips for hiring a contractor

March 24, 2017

Planning on making home improvements? Follow these tips from the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) on hiring the right person for the job:

Only hire state-licensed contractors. By law, any contractor performing a project valued at $500 or more (for total labor and materials) must be licensed by the CSLB. Since 2005, all new contractors are also required to pass a background investigation that includes a criminal background check. Check out the contractor's photo ID and the "pocket license," which lists the type(s) of trade for which the contractor is licensed. Make sure the license is still valid and in good standing on or by calling (800) 321-2752.

Find out about permit requirements. Check with the City's Building and Safety Division whether the project needs a building permit. If so, confirm that the contractor will obtain all necessary permits.

Check the contractor's insurance. Ask whether the contractor carries general liability insurance and worker's compensation insurance for employees.

Don't rush into repairs. Get at least three bids and request references on work that the contractor has completed in the local area. If possible, check out the contractor's past projects in person.

Have a written contract. All project materials and expectations (including cleanup, debris removal and site security) should be spelled out clearly in writing. Changes to the contract must be done in writing and signed by both parties. Keep a file of all project papers and payments. Never sign a contract without fully understanding the terms.

Don't pay in cash. Contractors cannot ask for deposits of more than 10 percent of the total cost of the job or $1,000, whichever is less. Stick to the agreed schedule of payments. Don't make the final payment until you are satisfied with the job.

For information on a contractor's license history and disciplinary actions, call CSLB at (562) 345-7656. Free complaint forms are available at or (800) 321-2752.


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