More than a dozen people were caught in a sting operation in Paso Robles last week for allegedly operating as a contractor without a license and authorities are now warning homeowners about the risks associated with hiring those unqualified workers.
According to the Contractors State License Board, the 14 people were caught during a sting operation at a home south of Highway 46.
For Robert Mannon, a licensed contractor working in Paso Robles, the news that his unlicensed competitors are being caught is good to hear.
“We have to jump through a lot of hoops to be licensed,” Mannon said. “So it’s good to hear, otherwise, why are we doing all these extra steps if it’s not being enforced.” .
Mannon is currently heading the project to transform a late 1800s era home on Spring Street into a restaurant.
“I can do basically any projects that don’t have to do with highways, roads or airports,” Mannon said.
Mannon got his contractors license back in 1986, a certification that assures his customers he will complete the job he’s paid to do.
But as the recent sting operation revealed, not all of Mannon’s competitors are doing business fair and square.
“They could have no more than a cell phone and pickup truck and that makes them a contractor,” Rick Lopes, who works for the State License Board, said using air quotes on the word “contractor.”
Work valued at over $500 requires a license, Lopes said, and there’s no such thing as a “handyman license” in the State of California.
Lopes said unlicensed contractors not only pose a financial risk, leaving homeowners liable for injuries on the job, as well as poor workmanship or lack thereof altogether.
But an unlicensed contractor could also pose a physical threat to a homeowner, who has no way of knowing if the person they’ve hired to work in there home has a criminal record.
One of the 14 men caught in the sting allegedly had a small amount of heroin and methamphetamine in his possession.
Lopes said there are likely people who have employed the unlicensed contractors caught in the June sting.
“It’s very doubtful we’re catching someone just getting into the business,” Lopes said.
While some people see the potential for a smaller bill from one of these unlicensed contractors as outweighing the opportunity for bad, Lopes warns that you get what you pay for.
“Say you hire someone who doesn’t have a license and you have a problem with them. You’ve got little more than a phone number that they’re going to stop answering,” Lopes said.
“If you built a building illegally, you can always fix it. Worse case, you know, knock it down,” Mannon said. “But if someone gets hurt or killed, the homeowner’s responsible.”
You can search your contractor’s name on the state website to ensure they are licensed before you hire them.