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What options do I have if I have been swindled by a contractor?

On Behalf of | Apr 14, 2023 | Real Estate Law & Litigation

Home improvement projects can be exciting and rewarding, but they can also be stressful and costly if you end up hiring a dishonest or incompetent contractor. Unfortunately, contractor fraud is not uncommon in California, and many homeowners have found themselves in a nightmare scenario where they paid for shoddy work, unfinished work or work that was never done at all. You have options to protect your rights and recover your losses.

Document everything

Keep a detailed record of your contract, payments, receipts, invoices, change orders, correspondence, photos and any other evidence related to your project. You may need this information to file a complaint, pursue legal action or support your claim in court.

Contact the contractor

Try to communicate with the contractor and resolve the issue amicably. Explain your concerns and expectations clearly and politely. Ask for a written explanation of why the work was not done as agreed or why it was done poorly. Request a refund, a repair or a completion of the work within a reasonable time frame.

File a complaint

The Contractors State License Board is the state agency that regulates and licenses contractors in California. If the contractor is licensed, you can file a complaint with the CSLB online or by mail. The CSLB will investigate your complaint and may take disciplinary action against the contractor, like a citation, suspension, license revocation or order them to pay restitution.

File a complaint with other agencies or organizations. Depending on your situation, you may also file a complaint with other entities that may have jurisdiction over your case, such as the Attorney General’s Office, the Better Business Bureau, the local district attorney’s office or the local building department.

Funds available when the contractor is broke

Apply for the Contractors, License Bond Fund. If the contractor is licensed and you have obtained a final judgment against them in court, but they are unable to pay you what they owe you, you may be eligible to apply for compensation from the Contractors’ License Bond Fund. It pays up to $15,000 per claimant and $75,000 per contractor.

If the contractor is registered as a home improvement salesperson and sold you a home improvement contract that included a warranty for materials or workmanship, but they failed to honor the warranty or perform the work as promised, you may be eligible to apply for compensation from the Home Improvement Warranty Fund. The fund can pay up to $10,000 per claimant or up to $100,000 per HIS.