An unlicensed contractor working on the Westside has left a trail of broken promises, a number of homeowners in Westchester allege. The contractor has no license, according to Pamela Mares, public affairs officer for the state Contractors Licensing Board (CLB), the agency that regulates contractors and processes complaints about illegally practicing contractors.
Detective Kurt Walker of the Pacific Station of the Los Angeles Police Department has confirmed that Sitiveni “Steven” Tai is wanted by police on a felony warrant for contracting without a license.
“We had a complaint [that Tai] was in the area from a resident who said that he was doing some work for her home,” the detective said. “By the time we investigated, he had already fled, and it turns out that he had a warrant out on him.”
Walker said that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is now handling Tai’s case.
Several Westchester homeowners who have employed Tai describe his modus operandi as quoting a relatively low price for a particular job, then making subtle but firm suggestions for additional work. They allege that Tai has eventually abandoned the agreed-upon task, with the client’s money in his pocket and the job unfinished.
Glenn Weaver says he hired Tai to rebuild his driveway because he quoted low prices.
“Every day he would come over and he would say, what about this and what about that, a new walkway and stuff,” Weaver told a local television station earlier this month. “It just kept going and going, and the price just kept going up and nothing was getting done.”
Youshka Starkings says she paid Tai $700 to build a fence in March last year, and she now says she regrets that she ever considered hiring him to do the work.
“He was doing a lot of work on our street for some of my neighbors,” she told The Argonaut. “I didn’t ask for any references or his license, and now I feel [silly] for not doing that.”
Unfortunately, when property owners hire a contractor who does not a have a permit, “They are pretty much out of luck,” acknowledged Mares.
“It is a big risk when you hire unlicensed people,” she continued. “We try to tell the public that it’s best to hire only licensed contractors.”
According to the Contractors Licensing Board Web site, the term “contractor” includes those individuals or firms who offer services to improve real property, including, but not limited to, home building, remodeling, room additions, swimming pools, painting, roofing, landscaping, plumbing, electrical, heating and air conditioning, and installation and repair of mobile homes.
Starkings says that she knows at least three other people on her street who have also had dealings with Tai.
But apparently at least one Westchester client has a home improvement project that was initiated and completed by Tai, according to Starkings.
One of her neighbors was able to persuade the unlicensed contractor to completely rebuild her driveway, Starkings says.
“I don’t know how she was able to do that,” she said. “I wish I knew.”
Starkings alleges that Tai dug several holes in her yard, where he was supposed to build a fence. More than a year later, there is no fence, but the unsightly holes remain, she alleges.
“It’s awful,” she lamented.
The Contractors Licensing Board advises property owners to ask prospective builders for photo identification and their state license, which all legal contractors carry with them.
“Be very, very suspicious of people who don’t have their license,” Mares, the public affairs officer, cautions.
She also suggests visiting the agency’s Web site, www.cslb .ca.gov/, to check a contractor’s license to verify that all permits are in order, there are no outstanding liens or fines, or if the license has been suspended.