The Santa Monica City Attorney’s office filed charges against five unlicensed construction contractors during 2008 as part of an ongoing partnership with the Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB) to crack down on illegal practices by contractors in Santa Monica.
“The tightening of credit and a worsening economy may create more opportunities in 2009 for unlicensed contractors to take advantage of Santa Monicans who are trying to find bargains,” said Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades. “However, the vast majority of our complaints involve not just the lack of licensing, but folks who didn’t get close to what they bargained for. It will be cheaper in the long run if you insist on licensed work.”
The most recent charges were filed against Hosayn Mandi, owner of New Line Interiors in Santa Monica, who was arraigned last month at the LAX criminal courthouse for criminal charges stemming from a recent kitchen remodeling job in which he is alleged to have taken a $15,000 down payment and then refused to perform any work or return the money. A trial setting hearing is set for January 28.
The charges against Mandi and New Line Interiors, filed on November 6, include contracting without a license, charging an excessive down payment, theft, and operating without a City business license. The count of unlicensed contracting is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The other offenses are each punishable by up to one year in County Jail. Additionally, charging an excessive down payment has a maximum fine of $5,000. The City Attorney’s office has already obtained a court order prohibiting Mandi and New Line Interiors from conducting any contractor’s business pending trial.
The other four cases filed by the City Attorney’s office in 2008 have resulted in two misdemeanor convictions in which the contractor was ordered to pay restitution and do no contracting work for 36 months. The other two cases resulted in bench warrants being issued for defendants who failed to appear in court.
The Consumer Protection Unit urges consumers to know their rights with contractors, including:
• The right to hire licensed contractors;
• The right to check a contractor’s license at www.cslb.ca.gov or 800.321.2752;
• The right to pay only 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment for labor; and,
• The right to a written contract that specifies project costs, the down payment, a payment schedule, and start and completion date.
The State Senate Oversight Committee ranks contractor fraud among the top five consumer complaints in California – a problem that costs consumers nationwide more than $100 billion annually.
To report a consumer complaint against a contractor, call the CSLB fraud team at 562.345.7600 or go to cslb.ca.gov. For any contractor problems in Santa Monica, call the City Attorney Consumer Protection Unit at 310.458.8336.