Unlicensed contractors busted in sting

ATWATER VILLAGE The sting went after suspected unlicensed workers, advertising online and in print. The men were lured to a home in Atwater Village where they were invited to bid on all kinds of work; from landscaping and flooring, to painting and bathroom remodeling.

The two day sting was conducted by the Contractor's State License Board. In all 27 people arrested.

According to the license board not only were they unlicensed, but many of them gave overpriced bids and asked for large amounts of money upfront, a practice that's illegal in California.

"Year after year contractor fraud is one of the top complaints both statewide and nationwide and people are constantly ripped off," said Don Kass of the L.A. City Attorney's Office.

Homeowners are either charged too much or end up agreeing to low bids, meaning what they think is a good deal ends up costing them much more.

Legitimate contractors say they are being forced to compete with unlicensed workers who often underbid and many times and leave homeowners having to pay twice for a job because the original work is done incorrectly and unsafe.

"It's a huge problem," said Jeff Eisen, a licensed plumber. "People have died because of plumbing not being done properly and more people will die in the future."

The Department of Consumer Affairs says homeowners can protect themselves from dangerous situations and phony contractors if they are willing to do a little leg-work.

"Do your homework. Don't hire just based on the price that they're offering you on the spot," said Carrie Lopez, Director for Consumer Affairs. "Don't do something that sounds too good to be true. Every professional in California has to be licensed. Check it out; get referrals."

If you'd like to find out if a contractor is licensed you can call 1-800-952-5210 to find out if they have a valid license.

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