A: Well, first of all, what the guy did was a crime. I mean literally a crime.
Someone who contracts without a license faces misdemeanor charges, which could result in six months in jail and an administrative fine of up to $15,000.
If the person poses as a licensed contractor, or illegally uses someone else’s license, it becomes a felony and things get much harsher.
In both cases, the defendant fake contractor could be ordered by the court to pay you restitution. Restitution is essentially the same as reimbursing you for any money you lost in the process.
You also have remedies in regular civil court. You can sue for defective construction. In theory, you would get a judgment to cover the cost of repairing everything.
The part or your story that concerns me though is the dead telephone. If the guy has closed his shop he could be long gone. And even if you found him, it’s possible he doesn’t have a penny to his name.
Here’s what I’d do.
Go online at www.cslb.ca.gov
and file a formal complaint with the licensing board. They not only have the power to investigate and enforce the laws in this area, they actually have their own brand of SWAT units when something is as obviously bad as this.
You can also contact your local police department and see if they are willing to investigate or to take your complaint to the district attorney. The district attorney’s office used to have an attorney that spent a great deal of his time prosecuting contractor-type violations. But with budget cuts I’m not sure if these types of crimes are a priority in the office.
I’ll warn you that police departments are largely concerned with violent crimes and often these “white collar crimes” take a very back seat on their to-do list. Generally speaking, police aren’t trained in “white collar crime” and it’s been my experience that the police decline to act on these types of complaints.
However, the Contractors State License Board is probably your best bet.
You’re free to file your own civil lawsuit. Assuming you get a judgment against the guy you can then go about trying to collect your money.
Just be aware that, at the end of the day, you may well get stuck throwing good money after bad to have a real contractor come in and do the job right.