Joint Sting Operation in Monterey County Uncovers Alleged Unlicensed Contractors


By Erol Kilic

On December 6, 2023, the Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB) announced a joint operation with the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office and the California Department of Insurance (CDI) that successfully identified nine unlicensed contractors in a Monterey County sting in mid-November. Under current law, a California contractor’s license is required for any construction bid or contract work that is more than $500, including materials and labor. Further, unlicensed workers must disclose the person is unlicensed in contracting service advertisements and prohibited from bidding on contracting work valued more than $500. Current state law strictly limits the amount contractors may request as down payments to 10% of the project cost, or $1,000, whichever amount is lower.

The unlicensed contractors submitted bids that ranged from $1,000 to $4,500, the largest for a landscaping project. The sting operation also revealed excessive down payments prior to the start of the projects that exceed the 10% or $1,000 maximum under the law. Further charges may include unlawful advertising of construction services without a valid license. The unlicensed contractors were given notice to appear in criminal court and face fines up to $15,000 and/or jail time. The additional violations may result in fines of up to $5,000, a one-year sentence in county jail, or both.

CSLB Registrar David Fogt stated “CLSB is unwavering in its commitment to protect homeowners from unlicensed contracts[.] Our commitment includes providing consumer education on the importance of hiring licensed contractors. We urge homeowners to verify a contractor’s license before starting any home improvement project in California.”

CSLB, under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), licenses and regulates roughly 285,000 contractors across California. Such regulation, and its enforcement, becomes especially critical in the wake of natural disasters that Californians are increasingly experiencing. Dishonest contractors may attempt to take advantage of the dire situations families may find themselves in after severe storms and fires, by charging excessive down payments and inflating labor and/or material costs, knowing that families will feel forced to accept without the time to compare prices or ask more questions. When consumers are at heightened risk of such predatory behavior, government agency intervention on their behalf is vital. If you or someone you know may be at risk of unlicensed work and/or illegal price-gouging, please visit the CSLB website at or contact CSLB toll-free at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752) for more information or to report suspected unlicensed contractors.



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