Bureau of Automotive Repair’s Consumer Assistance Program (CAP)

With some of the strictest vehicle emissions standards in the Nation, many motorists in California are aware that sooner or later, their vehicle will be required to have a biennial (every other year) Smog Check inspection.

Let’sSMOG say your registration renewal notice indicated that your car needed a Smog Check, you took your vehicle to a Smog Check station and your vehicle failed the inspection.  Emissions-related repairs can vary and may be costly.  What is a consumer to do?  Check out the Repair Assistance option under the Bureau of Automotive Repair’s (BAR) Consumer Assistance Program (CAP).

CAP was designed to help improve California’s air quality and assist in the effort to ensure vehicles meet the State’s emissions standards. Eligible consumers may receive financial assistance up to $500 towards certain emissions-related repairs.  Since 2000, BAR has administered the program on a first-come, first-served basis, depending on availability of funds.

The requirements for the repair assistance program are as follows:

  • The vehicle must have failed its “biennial” Smog Check inspection.
  • The vehicle must not have a tampered emissions control system.
  • The vehicle must be currently registered with the DMV with a valid, unexpired registration sticker OR have all fees paid to the DMV and not have a registration that has been expired more than 120 days.
  • The vehicle registration must not have lapsed for more than 120 days during the two consecutive years preceding the current registration expiration date.
  • The vehicle must not be undergoing a transfer of ownership, initial registration, or re-registration in California.
  • The vehicle must not be registered to a business, fleet, or non-profit organization.
  • You must be the registered owner with title issued in your name.
  • You must have a household income that is less than or equal to two hundred twenty-five percent (225%) of the federal poverty level, as published in the Federal Register by the United States Department of Health and Human Services
  • You must not have previously received assistance for the same vehicle through CAP.

To highlight the benefits of the program, the Bureau of Automotive Repair and the California Department of Consumer Affairs developed a short video featuring an actual consumer who participated in the Consumer Assistance Program.

For more information about CAP and to download an application, please visit www.smogcheck.ca.gov.

Don’t forget.  Check the license!  Before taking your vehicle to a Smog Check station, it is important to verify that the station is licensed.  To verify a license, click here or go to www.bar.ca.gov and click the “License Search” button on the main page.

Hiring a Contractor Step-by-Step

Preparation is key when hiring a licensed contractor, and as Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”  So how do you properly prepare for a construction project, and who can you trust to give you such advice?  Start with those who regulate the contractors.

The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) protects California consumers by licensing and regulating the state’s construction industry. Hiring a CSLB-licensed contractor is an essential factor in consumer protection.

Here are some tips CSLB recommends when hiring a licensed contractor.

Create a Project Folder
Start with a file folder to store all of your paperwork. You will need to keep track of contractor and subcontractor information, insurance papers, receipts, and other project documents.

Material Costs
Hiring a Contractor sinkYour contractor will help you determine the total cost of materials, but it is a good idea to do some research before you start the interview process to keep control of your cost estimates. The cost of a faucet might range from $30 to $300, so it is important to get an idea of what you like and what fits into your budget. Pick out products you really like, but have a backup with a different price point. Make sure to note the brand, model number, and price of all the materials you want to use.

You’re Ready to Interview a Licensed Contractor
Before hiring a licensed contractor you should interview and get bids from at least three. Ask your friends, family, and people you trust about any contractors they’ve worked with successfully. Another source could be your local builders association, and there is always the Internet. But before you hire your contractor, be sure to get his or her license number and check it at www.CheckTheLicenseFirst.com or by calling (800) 321-CSLB (2752). CSLB’s database will be able to tell you if the contractor is in good standing, is licensed for the trade work involved in your project, and if the contractor has worker’s compensation insurance for employees.

When the contractor arrives, the first thing you will want to do is make sure the name on the contractor’s license matches his or her driver license or other photo ID. Now it’s time to discuss your project.

CSLB pocket license

Hiring a Contractor drivers license

Check the Candidates Twice
After interviewing a few licensed contractors and selecting a favorite, it’s time to check references. This is a chance to check the contractor’s professional reputation. Ask for a list of people who have had similar work done by that contractor. If the references tell you about positive experiences, ask to see the project in person. Be sure to view at least three other projects to help ensure you are going to get the quality of work you desire.

You Found THE ONE, But are You Ready to Sign a Contract?
Hiring a Contractor expertsYour hard work is paying off and it is finally time to sign a contract, but don’t rush to sign on the dotted line. If yours is a large, more complicated project, such as new home construction or an extensive remodel, this is a good time to have an independent expert review your project plans. You can go to a local builders exchange office and use one of their “plan check rooms” to have one of the qualified pros, who volunteer their time, review this for you.

This is also the time to add more paperwork to your file. If this is going to be “your contractor,” then be sure to get copies of the workers’ compensation and general liability insurance policies. CSLB’s website will have information about the workers’ compensation insurance on the contractor’s detail page.

The Contract Check List
Hiring a Contractor checklistThe contract should include the contract start and completion date; a payment schedule for work (but only pay for work after it has been completed); planned details of the project; detailed information about the materials to be used; a list of all sub-contractors; the stipulation that the contractor will obtain all building permits, take care of debris removal and clean up, and locations where the materials will be stored; and the deposit amount. By law, the deposit can’t be more than $1,000 or 10% of the total bid, whichever is less, unless the contractor has what’s called a blanket performance and payment bond on file with CSLB. This bond will be noted on the contractor’s detail page on CSLB’s website or you can call the toll-free automated information line. Contracts also are required to include such information as mechanics liens, how to contact CSLB, and the three-day right to cancel.

Once you know who all of the subcontractors, workers, and material suppliers will be, have each sign a lien release form. (Standard lien release forms are available on CSLB’s website.) Double-check the list and get a qualified professional to review everything before you sign your contract.

Congratulations! You Hired a Contractor
Hiring a contractor can be quite an experience. It’s important for you to participate in each step of your project, visit the worksite regularly, and take photographs. Pictures will help you document the progression of the project, and can be a useful tool if problems arise.

Remember, the Contractors State License Board is here for you. If you have questions, or need help, check www.cslb.ca.gov or call (800) 321-CSLB (2752).

Additional resources can be found in the Consumer section of CSLB’s website.

Check Out CalBRE’s Newest Licensing Video


Now, there is one more tool at your disposal when applying for a Real Estate Broker’s License. The California Real Estate Bureau has a new tutorial video for those individuals interested in applying for a Real Estate Broker’s License.  In just a few minutes you’ll learn the guidelines and steps in order to complete the process.

If you have any questions regarding the Broker examination, visit the CalBRE website or contact them at (877) 373-4542.

Roadside Surveys Help Improve California’s Smog Check Program

If you’ve ever driven by what appears to be a daytime DUI checkpoint but isn’t, you may have asked yourself, “What is going on here?” Orange cones line the street, you see a California Highway Patrol officer flagging drivers to stop and pull over to the side of the road. Then you see a few people in orange vests standing next to computers on roll-away carts and a mobile metal contraption that seems to belong at smog check station.

Wonder no more. These are Roadside Emission Surveys conducted by the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR). BAR staff, the folks in the orange vests, are inspecting vehicles to gather vehicle emission data for California. The survey is completely voluntary and is really quick. The data collected is used to help improve the state’s Smog Check program.

Click on the video link above to watch a roadside survey in action. For more information, visit BAR’s website.

Welcome to The DCA Page!

The California Department of Consumer Affairs is excited to announce the launch of The DCA Page. The DCA Page is the first of its kind for the department and is your one-stop shop for the latest news, stories, photos and videos. This is the perfect place to get the latest from the Department of Consumer Affairs. We still recommend you visit our main website for official business.