Ask the County Law Librarian – Construction Disputes

Q: My husband and I hired a licensed contractor to renovate a bathroom in our home about three months ago. About six weeks ago, he just stopped showing up altogether, and is not returning any of my calls. There is a lot of unfinished work, and a lot of the work done so far was done very badly. What can I do?


A:  Contractor’s State License Board (CSLB) is often a good place to start. They offer investigation, mediation, and arbitration services for construction disputes. The board can also take disciplinary action against the contractor, such as suspending his license, imposing fines, or ordering your contractor to correct his work (or pay to have someone else correct his work). More information about the CSLB’s complaint process is available at

The CSLB’s focus is on resolving the dispute, rather than obtaining restitution for the complainant. If your primary focus is restitution, you may want to consider court action against the contractor. If your dispute could be resolved for $10,000 or less, you could pursue your case in small claims court, where you will find streamlined procedures and a quicker resolution to your case. For more information about taking your case to small claims court, see For claims over $10,000, you would need to pursue your case in the general civil court. More information about lawsuits in civil court is available at

Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday’s column. Even if your question isn’t selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.

Coral Henning, Director
@coralh & @saclawlibrarian

  • Davi Rodrigues

    I would caution anyone against placing too much emphasis on the state contractors board for help where a bad contractor is concerned. They are a licensing entity moreso than an enforcement agency. Complaints to them take almost a year to even get to, and sometimes two or more to resolve. Furthermore, they don’t always prosecute, even when there is clear convincing evidence. During the time you are awaiting this, your contractor is free to lien your home, sue your pants off, and continue to evade your calls.
    Just today, I recieved notice the the state attorney general had filed a suit against a contractor I had misdealings with, and the infractions began in 2005. During that time, the contractor racked up several more complaints, lawsuits and filed more liens to force payments on jobs not even completed. And this contractor has a long and less than noble history with the board already, having been placed on probation for dastardly deeds pre-dating 2004. It takes quite a lot to spur any action from the board, and you shouldn’t depend on them wholly.

    I’d also suggest a thorough check into any history your contractor has before you do anything more now, including filing any small claims court actions. the contractor I mentioned having dealings with has been involved in over 60 different lawsuits in this county with his customers, has learned how to manipulate the courts very well, and has become quite a practiced witness for himself. You want to be very prepared for people like him, lest you be blind-sided by lies, fraudulent evidence, and coerced testimony by witnesses produced.
    In the wrong hands, a contractors license can be a license to steal.


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