With the home real estate market in such turmoil in California, many homeowners, especially seniors, are considering staying in their homes and making home improvements and repairs. This can make the homeowner vulnerable to unscrupulous scammers and contractors in search of a quick buck.

How can you protect yourself? Be aware, anyone performing home improvement work valued at $500.00 or more must be licensed by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). In addition to contractor licensing, the CSLB provides consumers with information about a contractor’s license, bond and workers’ compensation insurance status, as well as pending and prior legal actions.

The following are top tips provided by the CSLB, which can also be used as a check list:

  • Take your time selecting possible contractors.
  • Hire only licensed contractors.
  • Get at least three bids.
  • Get the contractor’s license number and verity it online or by calling the CSLB.
  • Get at least three references and check the references.
  • Get a written contract.
  • Don’t sign anything until you fully understand and agree with it.
  • Ask a friend or relative to review the contract before you sign.
  • Include in the contract the details of work to be done, costs, and start and completion dates.
  • Never pay more than 10% down or $1,000.00, whichever is less.
  • Never pay in cash.
  • Don’t make a final payment until you are completely satisfied with the job.

The CSLB offers a free brochure which also includes additional advice on payment arrangements and information on the most common scams.

You can obtain the brochure and check out contractors by calling (800) 321-CSLB (2752) or online at cslb.ca.gov.