Dealing With a Complaint
This section talks about the steps the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) takes when a complaint has been filed against your license.
CSLB has up to four years from the date of violation, and up to ten years for some hidden structural defects.
Send Contact Letters
CSLB's Intake/Mediation Center sends contact letters to you and the complainant. The notice to the complainant urges him/her to cooperate with you to try to resolve the complaint.
Both parties typically receive the contact letter within two to three weeks of CSLB's receipt of the complaint. Assignment to a Consumer Services Representative (CSR) depends on the staffing and workload of the CSLB Intake/Mediation Center.
If the complaint is not resolved before further involvement from CSLB, a CSR will contact you and the complainant. The CSR requests additional information and/or documents and attempts to mediate a resolution to the complaint. This is the best time to resolve a complaint because it is much easier to resolve complaints early on, before the parties get entrenched in their positions, and you may avoid legal costs.
Complaints are handled based on the order in which they are received and the nature of the allegations. Allegations involving possible health and safety violations are given highest priority.
The following factors affect the time it takes to resolve a complaint.
- How serious is the nature of the complaint
- Are the necessary documents available
- Is the contractor cooperating
- Are other law enforcement agencies involved in the process
- What level of evidence is required
If the complaint is not resolved at this level the CSR can recommend that the complaint be referred to CSLB-sponsored arbitration or be transferred to an enforcement representative (ER) for further investigation. In some cases, the CSLB may recommend that small claims court or other civil remedies be used.
Referral to Arbitration
There are two types of CSLB-sponsored arbitration: Mandatory Arbitration (MARB) and Voluntary Arbitration (VARB). Complaints that meet stringent criteria and include a potential financial injury that is determined to be $15,000 or less may be referred to MARB. Complaints that meet stringent criteria and include a potential financial injury that is determined to be between $15,000 and $50,000 may be referred to VARB, if both parties are willing to resolve the dispute in that forum.
If the complaint is not resolved through early mediation or arbitration, and the complaint involves a probable violation of Contractors License Law, it is referred to an Investigative Center.
The ER assigned to investigate the complaint will interview you, the complainant(s) and any other people who can furnish relevant information.
When the investigation is concluded, the ER will, based on the evidence, recommend one or more of the following actions:
- Closing the complaint file because the matter has been resolved
- Closing the complaint file because of lack of evidence or a finding of no violation
- Referral to CSLB-sponsored arbitration
- Issuance of advisory letter
- Issuance of a letter of admonishment
- Issuance of a citation
- Filing of an accusation (which may lead to suspension or revocation of the license)
- Filing of criminal charges
- Filing of a petition for an injunction
If a letter of admonishment is issued, the licensee may contest the letter and request an office conference.
If a citation is issued, it may contain a civil penalty up to $2000 and/or an order of restitution to pay the financially injured party. If you are issued a citation and do not comply with the terms and conditions, your license will be automatically suspended. If at the end of ninety (90) days the citation is still not complied with, the license will be automatically revoked.
If a complaint is referred for a citation or an accusation, the licensee is afforded due process of law and can appeal the administrative disciplinary action. Appeals are heard before an Administrative Law Judge. The Office of the Attorney General represents CSLB in administrative hearings. You may represent yourself or hire an attorney to represent you.
If an accusation is filed and upheld, your license may be suspended or revoked.
Suspended or Revoked License
If your license is suspended you are not allowed to operate during the period of suspension.
If your license is revoked, you are not allowed to apply for reinstatement of your license for a minimum of one (1) year to a maximum of five (5) years.
When you apply for reinstatement or reissuance of your license:
- You must prove that you complied with the Registrar's decision resulting from accusation
- You must provide proof of rehabilitation
- In addition to the license bond, you must post a disciplinary bond in an amount determined by the Registrar for at least two (2) years. A disciplinary bond may be as low as $15,000 or as high as $100,000. These bonds can be expensive and difficult to obtain.
Keeping You Informed
Investigation of complaints can be a lengthy process. In order to keep you apprised of the status of the complaint CSLB will notify you:
- When the complaint is received and assigned to a CSR;
- When the complaint is transferred to an Investigation Center (if mediation fails to resolve it);
- When a citation or accusation is issued; and/or
- When the complaint is closed.
Complaints May Be Disclosed
CSLB discloses the date, nature and status of all complaints that:
- Result in the issuance of a citation; or
- Are referred for the filing of an accusation; or
- Have been referred for investigation; and
- Enforcement staff has determined there is a probable violation that, if proven presents a threat to the public; and
- The seriousness of the violation is appropriate for suspension and/or revocation of a contractor's license and/or referral to the District Attorney for criminal prosecution (this disclosure includes a disclaimer that the complaints disclosed are only allegations at the present time).