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Avoiding contractor scams while rebuilding in fire aftermath



More than 1,000 structures and hundreds of homes have been destroyed in the recent Central Coast wildfires so far.

At the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, volunteers say the number of evacuees has gone down from over 800 to around 130 as of today.

Many were able to return to their homes, but others who lost their homes in the fires say rebuilding and reconstructing is their next challenge.

Now, the Monterey County District Attorney has issued a warning for homeowners to be on the lookout for scams and con artists as they try to rebuild.

When it comes to rebuilding or repairing, a homeowner will likely seek a contractor.

Deputy District Attorney John Hubanks says the DA is anticipating an increase in complaints of fraudulent or unlicensed contractors as people begin to recover from the disaster.

“Our unit every year sees a lot of unlicensed contractor violations, which typically are misdemeanors," says Hubanks.

"When unlicensed contractors are working in a declared disaster zone doing that type of work, it’s going to get charged as a felony.”

He says often times, contractors will use city licenses or even other contractors' licenses when in fact they should be using a verified state license.

The DA's office warns an uninsured contractor using employees could actually put homeowners at risk of a lawsuit if a worker is injured during a project.

Hubanks also explains that in many license contracting cases, people who fall victim to fraudulent or unlicensed contractors do not get their money back most of the time.

“Always get it in writing, you’re going to want a written, not a verbal contract, get at least 2 or 3 references from that person from past clients, third, get a license number, the license should be on the written contract," says Hubanks.

The Monterey County DA suggested tips from the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) as stated in a press release:

• Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see the license. 

• Verify the contractor's license by checking online at 

• Don't rush into decisions and don't hire the first contractor who comes along. 

• Don't pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000—whichever is less. 

• Don't pay cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work. 

• Get three bids, check references, and get a written contract. 

• Always verify that the contractor has workers’ compensation insurance if they are using workers. 

• Contact CSLB if you have a complaint against a contractor.

Anyone with information regarding unlicensed or uninsured contractors can contact CLSB at (800) 321-2752 or the Monterey County District Attorney’s office at (831)755-3224. 

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Jocelyn Ortega

Jocelyn Ortega is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.


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