If you receive a letter from the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) regarding a complaint against you, your first reaction might be panic. After all, a threat to your license is a threat to your livelihood. The good news is that over 14,000 complaints were filed against licensees in the 2017/2018 fiscal year, but fewer than 700 licenses were revoked and fewer than 500 were suspended. The board closes about half of all complaints before they even reach the field investigation stage. One of your opportunities to resolve your complaint will come early in the process with mediation.
How does mediation work with the CSLB?
You and the complainant will both receive a letter from the board encouraging you to work out your disagreement, and many people do. The board will also appoint a Consumer Services Representative (CSR) to your case. How quickly this happens will depend on the seriousness of your case. The board gives priority to complaints that may affect health and safety.
Your CSR will contact both sides to gather more information. This person will also try to mediate a resolution. Legal mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution, meaning you avoid going to court. It involves a neutral third party talking through the important points of the case with both sides in order to come to an agreement to settle the dispute.
Pros and cons of mediation
Mediation has many benefits, such as:
- Saving time versus a drawn-out legal process and allowing the parties to move on with their lives
- Saving money on legal fees you may have to pay with lengthy litigation
- Putting the parties in control of the outcome, rather than leaving it up to a judge or arbitrator
- Often, the most you have to lose in the process is money, whereas your license could otherwise be at stake
On the other hand, settling in mediation means you could be giving up certain legal rights. You can protect yourself against this by hiring an attorney to advise you during the mediation process. That way you will know if the offer on the table is completely unreasonable given the facts of your case. If you cannot reach a reasonable settlement, you can always move on to the next phase of the complaint process. With the CSLB, that next step is either arbitration or further investigation.
How is arbitration different from mediation?
Arbitration is another type of alternative dispute resolution but is set up more like a mini-trial. You and your attorney present your case to an arbitrator, who acts as the judge. The arbitrator reviews the information and makes a decision. Under the CSLB’s rules, only complaints under a certain dollar amount are eligible for arbitration. Other cases are sent for further investigation.
A complaint against your contractor’s license does not have to result in disaster, or even a long, drawn-out legal process. With the right guidance, you may be able to resolve the matter early on and protect your license.