logo

I Have a Problem with a Home Improvement Contractor –
What Do I Do?

en español>

There are several things you may do if you have a problem with a home improvement contractor who did home repair, remodeling, or other work for you:

1. File a lawsuit in Small Claims court
File a lawsuit if you want to get your money back (up to $7,500 if you’re an individual or sole proprietor, or up to $5,000 if you are a company other than a sole proprietorship), or want money to fix the problem, or to have the court order that the contractor fix the problem or pay money.


2. File with the California Department of Consumer Affairs, Contractors State License Board (CSLB)

File a lawsuit if you want to complain against the contractor, which has other consequences for the contractor, including a possible fine up to $15,000.

  • The CSLB investigates complaints by homeowners, other contractors, subcontractors, employees and government agencies, against contractors. The CSLB investigates and tries to resolve complaints against both licensed and unlicensed contractors. 
  • The CSLB can review complaints about contractors’ work up to 4 years from date of the problem (and up to 10 years – if the problems were hidden and it took time to find out about the problem).
If you decide to file a complaint with the Contractors State License Board before you file a lawsuit in small claims court, make sure that your time to file a claim in court (‘statute of limitations’) doesn’t run out.

You have 4 years to file for an apparent construction problem (or 10 years, if the problem was hidden and it took time to find out about the problem). Notice that it is the same amount of time to file a complaint (beginning on the same date) either with the CSLB or in small claims court.

If your problem isn’t resolved by the CSLB about 6 months before the time to file in court runs out, seriously think about filing in court at that time.


Licensed Contractors – You may sue in small claims court or file a complaint with the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) for: 

  • Work that is done wrong; 
  • Work that is not finished or finished on time; 
  • Not paying subcontractors, material suppliers or employees;  
  • Not following building code requirements, not getting the required permits, etc.; or,
  • False, misleading or deceptive advertising


Unlicensed Contractors – You may sue in small claims court or file a complaint with the CSLB for the same issues as licensed contractors, plus for being unlicensed.

It is illegal to contract to do home repairs or remodeling without a license for more than $500 (including labor and materials). Therefore, if you file in small claims court you may ask for any money you paid beyond $500 -- up to $7,500, if you are a person or sole proprietor suing, or up to $5,000 if you are a company other than a sole proprietorship.


Check on the License

To see if the contractor is licensed or not, check the Contractors State License Board website Opens new window or call 1-800-321-2752.


Your Judgment
If you win a judgment against a licensed contractor, you may file a copy of the judgment with the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). If the judgment is due to a repair, remodel or construction issue, the CSLB may suspend the contractor’s license until the judgment is paid.

  • To learn how to file a case in small claims court, click here
  • To file a complaint with the Contractors State License Board, click here. Opens new window


<BACK TO BEFORE A LEGAL PROCEEDING LIST>

<BACK TO FAQ'S MENU>

<NEXT QUESTION>


Did this information help you?  Tell us what you think.