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How a small complaint ruins a contractor's career

Contractors rely on professional licenses to establish their credibility. It takes a significant amount of experience and time to earn a license, so it's disheartening to see it all go away with one small complaint.

Complaints are hazards for most contractors and their businesses due to the severity of filing a complaint to the licensing board in California. But how does the complaint process work?

The four steps after filing a complaint

If a homeowner files a complaint against you, there are a minimum of four steps to process and resolve the complaint in California:

  1. Mediation - The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) will collect documentation and information from the homeowner before filing an official complaint. Then, the board will arrange mediation between the homeowner and the contractor to resolve the issue before any formal proceedings begin.
  2. Investigation - If the meditation does not work, the CSLB investigates the complaint to determine a possible violation on the contractor's behalf. There will be an opportunity for the contractor to explain their perspective and the homeowner to recount their complaint.
  3. Arbitration - There is another possibility for another alternative dispute resolution if the complaint meets strict criteria. The CSLB prefers an arbitrator resolves the claim before the board intervenes.
  4. Board Review - CSLB reviews the investigation, complaint and charges against the contractor, and assesses if disciplinary action is necessary. They may suspend or revoke a contractor's license. The homeowner could also bring the contractor to small claims court for further damages.

The entire process puts contractors in a vulnerable position due to the severe penalties for these cases. In the worst case scenario, the contractor loses their license and their business if they are an independent contractor.

It's critical that you, as the contractor, advocate for yourself and defend your work during the investigation process. If you have concerns about the CSLB process, consult with a legal expert who can offer advice about how to address a complaint and what to expect during the review.

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