It’s Remodeling Season: What You Need to Know Going In

shutterstock_70184671Warm weather makes newly painted walls dry faster, projects less likely to be rain-delayed and spawns desire for that outdoor kitchen. But before you put big bucks towards a better abode, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) reminds you to do your due diligence before hiring any contractor to perform work in or on your home.

While most contractors are honest, hard-working professionals, consumers must always protect themselves from unlicensed, unscrupulous contractors who prey on them. You’d never buy a car without thoroughly researching it; do the same before investing in your home. Here are some tips from CSLB:

  • Check the license: For your protection, hire only state-licensed contractors. Verify a license by calling CSLB toll-free at (800) 321-CSLB (2752) or visit cslb.ca.gov. Any contractor doing $500 or more in work (including materials and labor) must be licensed by CSLB to work in California. Confirm that your contractor carries general liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance for employees that might be working in your home. Otherwise, you could be liable for their injuries.
  • Get at least three bids: Obtain at least three price estimates and ask for references on work the contractor has completed locally. Check out the finished projects in person if possible.
  • Get it in writing: In California, there must be a written contract for all home improvement projects over $500 in combined labor and materials costs.Contractors cannot ask for a deposit of more than 10 percent of the total cost for the job or $1,000, whichever is less. Ask for a current list of contact information for not only the contractor, but also the subcontractors and suppliers.
  • Manage the project and monitor payments: Never pay in cash and don’t let payments get ahead of the work. Keep all receipts, and don’t make the final payment until you’re completely satisfied with the finished job.

CSLB’s quick and comprehensive video is a must-see for those about to undertake home-improvement projects: www.cslb.ca.gov/Consumers/Hire_A_Contractor/Do_It_Right_Video.aspx

Also keep in mind the recent State Civil Code law change—effective January 2014—that requires anyone applying for a building permit that will alter or improve a single-family residence built in 1994 or earlier to replace all plumbing fixtures with water-saving designs. Replacement is a condition of receiving final permit approval from a local building department. In an Industry Bulletin published for contractors, CSLB clarified that building permits issued for property maintenance and repairs (such as re-roofing, water heater replacement, window replacement and some others as determined by the State Building Code) do not trigger the new requirements. Be sure to check all the details here: www.cslb.ca.gov/Media_Room/Industry_Bulletins/2014/January_17.aspx.

California Raises Smoking and Vaping Ages to 21

Choice between cigarette and e-cigarette

During a special healthcare session earlier this month, Governor Brown signed into law significant tobacco regulations, raising the smoking age from 18 to 21 and classifying e-cigarettes as tobacco products. The laws go into effect on June 9.

With the signing of this new law, California becomes the second state in the country, after Hawaii, to raise the legal smoking age in an effort to block young people’s access to tobacco.

A 2015 Institute of Medicine report concluded that if all states raised the smoking age to 21, there would be a 12 percent drop in teen and young adult smokers. Also, according to a March 2015 Institute of Medicine study, raising the smoking age to 21 would result in about 223,000 fewer premature deaths and 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer.

The Governor also signed a bill classifying e-cigarettes as tobacco products, banning e-cigarette use in venues where traditional cigarettes are prohibited, such as schools, restaurants, hospitals, and workplaces. Just as with other tobacco products, you must be 21 years old to buy e-cigarettes.

In addition to these two laws, five related bills that will expand smoking restrictions in the workplace and in schools were signed. One measure that would have allowed cities and counties to impose local taxes on tobacco products was vetoed.

For more information about the new laws, visit the Governor’s website at www.gov.ca.gov.

Latest Consumer Connection Magazine Highlights New Medical Marijuana Bureau

spring 2016

The first issue of 2016 is out, and it’s packed with great information.

Last year, the passage of the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act added another new regulatory entity—the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation—under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). Although it doesn’t officially open its doors until 2018, the DCA team is already hard at work getting its structure in place.  This issue outlines what the new laws do and how DCA will implement them, and also addresses some common questions and answers for consumers, businesses and potential licensees.

Also last year, the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) took the lead in addressing the issue of youth pankration (mixed martial arts fighting). Now, CSAC is leading the way again, this time addressing the risky—and sometimes deadly—practice of extreme weight cutting. Read about this along with recommendations on how to manage prescription costs; how to protect your hearing; what to do if your car is a lemon; new laws that impact Californians; crowdfunding and more.

Visit the DCA website to download or read the magazine. You can also pick up a printed copy in the DCA Headquarters lobby at 1625 North Market Boulevard in Sacramento. Or, to have it mailed to you at no charge, call (866) 320-8652 or send an e-mail request to consumerconnection@dca.ca.gov. Get connected!

New California Laws for 2015—Update

shutterstock_150165167Hundreds of laws—930 to be exact—went into effect this year. Most took effect back in January; however, a number of them went into effect on July 1. Here are a few:

Smartphone kill switches: Senate Bill 962 requires all smartphones sold in California have theft-deterring technology that allows owners to remotely disable their stolen devices.

Pet insurance: Assembly Bill 2056 requires that pet insurance policies clearly disclose details, including coverage limitations, reimbursements, waiting periods, and deductibles.

Fines for assisted living home violations: Under AB 2236, the top fine for violations of State regulations of State-licensed assisted-living homes increases from $150 to $15,000. This law is part of a package of bills that tightens California’s oversight of the State’s 7,500 assisted living homes.

Mandatory paid sick days: AB 1522 requires almost all California employers provide a minimum of three paid sick days to employees who currently receive no sick time. Employees can use the sick days starting on the 90th day of employment.

Ride-service insurance coverage: AB 2293 requires that drivers for ride-service companies, such as Uber and Lyft, must be insured during the time they have their app open but have yet to accept a call. The bill also calls on insurance companies to offer policies tailored specifically for ride-service drivers.

Lead ammunition ban: The first of three phases of AB 711, the law bans lead ammunition by barring its use for hunting in certain areas.

For more information on the laws effective in July, go to the Office of Governor’s website at http://gov.ca.gov.