Doni’s Old House Remodel: Goodbye, Right-hand Handyman 

You know how when you have a case of food poisoning, you have a gut hunch of the offending food?

That's how it was on Sept. 12, when I got a tense call from Corey, my right-hand handyman, who apologized for leaving work before he'd finished that afternoon's project, then explained that his abrupt departure was not his idea.

Corey, Doni's former right-hand handyman.

Rather, Corey was told to stop work at my house by an enforcement representative of the Contractors State License Board's fraud team who'd driven up from Sacramento, came onto my property (shortly after I'd left, by the way) and snapped outside photos of Corey replacing an $89 Home Depot bathroom window in an existing opening.

Those photos are the supposedly incriminating evidence.

Then the fraud team member – Jason Stoddard - came onto my porch and asked Corey to let him into my house for a look around. Corey told Stoddard he wasn't authorized to allow anyone in the house while I wasn't there.

Despite that, Corey said Stoddard looked through the open door and commented upon all the work “obviously” being done, and accused Corey of doing it. Corey explained he was just an hourly handyman who worked on many projects around the house. He assured Stoddard that I'd hired lots of licensed contractors, which is an understatement.

Let me just pause here and list the licensed contractors I've collectively spent tens of thousands of dollars on since I bought this nearly 80-year-old house in July and began immediate remodeling: a licensed electrical contractor, a licensed plumbing contractor, a licensed drywall contractor, a licensed pest-repair contractor, a licensed heating-and-air conditioning contractor, and two – count them two – licensed general contractors. Plus, I've consulted with a licensed landscape contractor, a licensed heavy equipment operator and a licensed flooring contractor. Last but not least, I hired a licensed architect who created an engineered plan so I could get a permit to bring light and air and space to my kitchen.

So right now, nobody understands the need for licensed contractors and professionals more than I do.

But I also recognize the need for a handyman (or handywoman); someone to do random necessary jobs that - let's face it - many licensed contractors wouldn't touch.

Here's a sample: Corey ripped out pet-urine-stained carpets. Corey removed rat-infested soffets and old kitchen cabinets. In triple-digit temperatures Corey crawled under the house and climbed into the attic to block rat entrances. Corey loaded my rented City of Redding 30-yard drop box full of demo material, much of it byproducts of the licensed contractors working at my house. Corey made dump runs and picked up materials at the hardware store.  Corey removed toilets. Corey cut down a small dead oak tree on the back of my lot. Corey removed a pair of skinny, messy cherry-plum trees from the front yard. Corey sanded an old Douglas fir floor.

The list goes on and on. All were little projects, none of which were worth more than a few hundred dollars in labor and materials each. What's more, this is all above-board work. Nothing under the table. Corey and I agreed that at the end of the year he'd receive a 1099, that this was taxable income as an independent contractor. (In this reference, “contractor” is an IRS term.)

I placed two calls to Stoddard before he returned my call. I told Stoddard it was unfortunate he'd made the unnecessary trip from Sacramento to Redding, because there was some huge misunderstanding. This all could have been easily resolved with a phone call to me, the homeowner, not a gottcha mini-sting on a handyman who works harder than anyone I've ever known. Whoever turned Corey in was sorely mistaken.

I was certain the complaint was intended to hurt me, not Corey. And although I'm just as certain of the jerk's identity, that doesn't help Corey, or me.

All that aside, I was convinced this could be cleared up when I told Stoddard everything I just told you.

I informed Stoddard that as a handyman, Corey needed the work, and as an owner/builder, I needed my handyman to do all those odds and ends.

Stoddard was 100-percent rigid. He insisted that Corey had committed fraud, that Corey's “violation” was “acting as a contractor” by earning more than $500 since July doing work around my house. I disagreed and explained that Corey was never responsible for any one big project (unlike all the licensed contractors, above), rather, Corey's job was to handle a bunch of small tasks. The only thing those small projects have in common was they were all on my property, and they were mostly hot, dirty, sometimes disgusting little jobs.

I explained that Corey is an independent handyman, that he has his own tools, he sets his own hours and he works for others besides me. He's done work like this his entire life. In fact, Corey worked for me for seven years on my Garden Tract house projects, like turning a pair of old bathtubs into beautiful raised herb gardens, and making a sliding barn door for an outdoor storage area, and putting cup hooks beneath my eaves for Christmas lights. I hire Corey because he does great work, but more than that, I like and trust him completely.

Stoddard was unmoved. He said that collectively, Corey's work was one project, and by law, as an unlicensed handyman, he can't be paid more than $500 – labor and materials. He said that Corey was welcome to get his contractors license. The thing is, Corey has no desire to be a contractor. He's happy doing what he's doing.

Stoddard said that furthermore, because of the “obviously” large financial scope of my “project”, from here on out anything done on my house would require a licensed contractor, no matter how small.

You've seen my house. It's modest. I'm not a wealthy person.

Doni's house.

I'm doing my best as a single businesswoman to improve a house that was sadly neglected for decades. My restored home will better my neighborhood, which will bring value to my community. Ultimately, this will bring sales tax to the city, and lots of work for people in all phases of construction: from a handyman like Corey to an architect like Tyler Hendrickson.

For clarification, I asked Stoddard if that meant that if I needed someone to install a new doorknob, for example, I couldn't hire a handyman, but I had to hire a licensed contractor? Stoddard said that was correct. Only licensed contractors for anything at my house from now on.

Mind you, I have nothing against licensed contractors, but for something like installing a new doorknob, a licensed contractor would charge two, three or even four times more to complete that task than a handyman. Cost-prohibitive overkill.

Finally, Stoddard said he would proceed with a case against Corey which would be submitted to the Shasta County District Attorney's office that could result in fines and even jail time for Corey. Jail time! Stoddard even mentioned the possibility of a jury trial.

What. The. Hell.

Our conversation disintegrated from there. Stoddard said my “opinion” was wrong. One of the last things he said – before he hung up on me – was that if I didn't like the law, I should change it.

Great idea.

Here's the law I propose: That any handyman or handywoman has the right to work and earn a living – as much as he or she wants, with no limit doing basic handy work. Why not? Why should only licensed contractors have the right to earn more than $500 per job? And as a homeowner, why shouldn't I have the right to choose whomever I want to hire, and to pay a handy person as much as I wish? If I have a project, like building a koi pond, and it takes weeks or even months, I should have the right to invest the way I wish for that project, completed by the person with whom I feel the most comfortable.

A little side note is that sometimes, licensed contractors will bid on and get jobs - painting, landscaping, fence-building, roofing, for example - but rather than doing the work themselves, that contractor will bring a motley crew of sometimes creepy folks into the customer's home to do the actual labor - and some of those folks turn out to be rotten apples. I know of one elderly woman who had this very situation happen with unknown, unsavory workers inside her home doing work arranged by the licensed contractor, and the next day her house was broken into and expensive belongings stolen from places that nobody would have known about except someone who'd been inside to see firsthand.

Give me a known, trusty unlicensed handyman over unknown subbed-out strangers any day. But I digress.

The current California law ensures that people like Corey will never get ahead, and that they will remain in poverty. It ensures that these unlicensed folks may never afford to buy a new truck, let alone a house, or ever feel a sense of financial security and stability. The current law requires that for Corey to make a living, he must go from job to job, new customer to new customer, always staying below $500 in labor and materials, and then move along.

If you think this is just a Corey/Doni problem, you're mistaken. That trusted unlicensed fix-it person you've routinely hired for everything from building a fence to painting your house is in violation of the Contractors State License Board if you've paid more than $500 in labor and materials. And if you have a $501 television you need a handyman to attach to a wall bracket  ... bingo! Someone's broken a law before you even pay that person to hoist that TV onto the bracket, because the value of materials exceed California's legal limit.

Corey is a shy guy. He prefers to work alone. He's a man of few words. He's not a hustler, someone who'll go door to door drumming up business. It took me years of hiring Corey before he made eye contact, or even smiled. He loves nature, and he loves his dog Spirit, who sometimes comes to work with Corey.

But most of all, Corey's a gifted, self-taught artist whose real love is making furniture from branches, willows, driftwood, rocks and horns.

Corey's also a tough guy, and no stranger to rough times. But since he's worked with me at this latest house, he's redoubled his efforts to live a healthy life. Every day he worked for me, his radio blasted Christian inspirational music throughout the house, which wasn't my cup of tea, but I knew it was important to him, so the music stayed. And Corey was content.

Thanks to one nasty individual -- and the Contractors State License Board, under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs -- Corey is no longer allowed to work for me. Stoddard threatened Corey with doubled fines, or worse, if he did.

Corey came by my house this week to retrieve all his tools, as well as furniture samples he'd brought over to show some folks who'd heard of Corey's furniture-making talents.

Throughout this ordeal, Corey's greatest concern was that something bad would happen to me. He keeps assuring me that he'll be OK. As a new believer, his mantra is, “It's all good.”

I appreciate his sentiments, but this is not all good. In fact, this is total bull shit.

All this happened in a city where good jobs are hard to find. All this happened in a city where homelessness and crime and addiction have citizens in a rightly uproar. We complain about people who panhandle and camp illegally and damn it, why don't those people just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and find work? Better still, why don't we take a chance and give someone a chance to work for us?

Nice idea, but not so fast. Not unless the Contractors State License Board laws decriminalize hard work performed by those willing to do some of society's hardest jobs. Until then, all of us who hire good people to do odds jobs that exceed $500 over the course of a "project" - and all of those we hire to do those projects - we're all criminals.

Stoddard was right about one thing: If we don't like that law, we should change it.

Let's do it.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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139 Responses

  1. Matthew Grigsby says:

    This not only breaks my heart, it fills me with outrage. Our tax dollars are being spent chasing down a single unlicensed handyman? What did it cost for the inspectors to drive up from Sacramento? I suppose we should be happy that there aren’t any multi-million dollar construction projects in California that require inspection and attention, right? Finally the inspectors have the time to root out these dangerous unlicensed handymen and women! I feel safer already.

    • Perfectly put, Matt. Thank you.

    • Deb says:

      I am sitting here spluttering and all I can do is point to Matt’s comment and say THAT! THAT RIGHT THERE! With a lot of swearing that I won’t do here in public. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…..

      Also, whoever reported this… I hope that all the rats find their house and never leave and make the biggest mess imaginable AND that no contractor will take on the job of clearing it up. Ever. May they live in filth, and be unable to do anything about it.

    • Jedediah says:

      50-56 cents a mile if he drove himself, plus per diem I bet.

  2. john says:

    How did someone from Sac know about your remodel? Sounds like somebody has got it in for you. What a load of crap. Good Luck dealing with those A#$@!!** holes.

  3. trek says:

    Sorry you think you got screwed over but the law is very much needed. Sounds like Corey is doing a great job but I’m willing to bet a great percentage of his wages are never filed with the IRS. The law also protect the homeowner too. What if Corey was to fall off the roof and break his neck or get hurt and permanently disabled? I get it, been in the construction industry for 45 years. Have you ever been in SoCal at a Home Depot or lowes store? Generally every morning there are long lines of workers waiting for jobs by home owners. Again uncle Sam wants his money.

    • cheyenne says:

      Instead of making a false accusation about Corey not paying his taxes why don’t you ask Trump, or any rich millionaire, if they pay all their taxes.

    • I disagree with you that that the law that limits a handyman to earning just $500 is very much needed.

      I do understand that the Contractors State License Board provides a valuable service when it comes to protecting the public from unscrupulous contractors, and especially protecting vulnerable populations from rip-off artists posing as contractors. Corey falls in neither category.

      As I said, I totally see the need for licensed contractors, which is why I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on so many of them since I bought the house.

      Regarding taxes, you make an unfounded assumption. Corey and I agreed that any work done for me on this property – especially since it is so public – would be squeaky clean regarding the IRS.

  4. cheyenne says:

    California has all those laws to protect their residents that are actually used by scum, I’ll say it if you won’t, to rip off residents. From harassing homeowners and handymen for “unlicensed” work to harassing businesses for handicap and environmental issues such as not wide enough handicap parking spaces to not posting a sign about harmful chemicals. A classic example is Stillwater Business Park. When a Redding company declined to expand into the park one reason that I saw given for that was they had to pay prevailing wages because public money was involved. I asked our Wyoming legislator about that in Cheyenne’s business parks filling up and was told there was no prevailing wage restrictions on those business parks.
    What is more important to California? Allowing the middle class workers to actually make a living there, or drive them more into poverty as the super rich get richer.

  5. Well, that just stinks. I’m so sorry.

  6. Beverly Stafford says:

    Oh Doni, my heart weeps over this. So does this mean that Joe has to be licensed to install your cabinets? I do understand trek’s reasoning; however, what I really understand is that you have a very small-minded enemy who is gleefully rubbing his hands together over this setback. As my Greek brother-in-law says, “Don’t get mad; get even.” I imagine Stoddard loves the part of his job where he can put the screws to taxpayers who pay his salary – somewhat like those few who go into law enforcement so they can knock heads. What a load of crap.

  7. CoachBob says:

    Crap from CSLB and other state agencies (like the one in Redding that ended the Gold St. Cafe) are almost always heavy-handed. These little men (and women) get their ego from stuff like this. Then, backed by bullshit law, you may as well have given them a license to carry a gun.
    Wanna change the law? First, we elect a whole new breed of politician. Those laws start in Sacto.
    Re your comment about the little job here and there, not totaling much individually: The CSLB says anything done on your property by an individual is considered a single job. Example: You hire me to install a retro-window. Then you hire me the next day to install another. That’s ONE job. Period. So, your guy doing all these different things on your single project are considered one job, regardless.
    Now, this jackass we taxpayers are paying to come up from Sacto, in my opinion, is completely wrong on this silly issue of installing a doorknob. He’s being a jerk. Which comes natural for him.
    Simplest change in the law would be to increase the $500 threshold for unlicensed up to, say, $2500! This would solve many issues for everyone. EXCEPT….the other contractors out there that would pitch a bitch of having work taken away from them. Yeah, like they go after the small jobs. And, these days, $2500 is a small job. Want proof? Just try and get one to come to your home this time of year for that amount. Just try. I feel bad for you but….been there, done that!

    • cheyenne says:

      Bob, you are right on two points.
      When I had work done on my house in Anderson the limit was $500 for handymen. That was over twelve years ago. Costs in everything have risen since then.
      I used handymen like Corey for jobs that were over $500 because the “licensed contractors” wouldn’t give me the time of day. Either my project was too small or they only worked on new construction.

    • CoachBob says:

      I should have added that, IMO, these a-holes in Sac are wannabe cops and are frustrated that they couldn’t get thru the academy. Just my thought…..

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Coach Bob — I’d say a good 80% of local conservatives are pseudo-libertarians who turn out to be pure authoritarians when you examine their core values—and even more telling, their actions.

      I’ll bet you $20 that the person who dropped a dime on Doni was a local conservative who talks a good “smaller government” game, but is the first to turn authoritarian tattle-tale and contact the License Board cops when they want someone to get slapped down by Big Brother.

      Want to bet against that?

      Let me go way out on another limb: Those local licensed contractors who would fight tooth and nail to protect their turf by opposing any changes to this law? How many flaming liberal local contractors do you know? I’m going to say that they lean about 80% conservative as well. Wouldn’t surprise me if it was a local conservative contractor who dropped the dime. Maybe one working on Doni’s house.

      • Steve, you win the kewpie doll with your last sentence.

      • CoachBob says:

        It’s not unlike “small claims” court raising the ceiling on amounts you can sue for. Only makes sense.

      • CoachBob says:

        Six (6) times you used the word “conservative”. Political, political, political. Jesus

        • Justin says:

          Yes, why start the name calling, clearly there are jerks on all sides…

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          Coach Bob — I was making a point about who, locally, are the authoritarians who say “less gum’mint” out of one side of their mouths, while advocating for and call upon a bigger, stronger police state to solve their problems out of the other side.

          If you’re trying to say that your initial post in this thread was apolitical—thus my politicized response was out-of-the-blue inappropriate—you’re making me giggle.

          I’ll ask you again: Do you think that the contractor who dropped a dime and called the Licensing Board voted for Brown and Obama? He’s probably all for deregulation, except when it comes to protecting his turf.

    • Coach Bob, your suggestion to change the law to increase the $500 threshold is one my favorite of all your comments. I haven’t had time to look into the law’s conception (working on the house, you know … I’m between paint coats on the doors), but it would be interesting to learn when this law was enacted, and what the cost of living was then. Back then, $500 may have well been a decent living wage for someone.
      Some legislator could be a hero and write a bill – let’s all it the Corey Bill – that would increase the amount an unlicensed handman/woman can earn.
      The licensed contractors who bitch can just get over it. There is plenty of work to go around. And for what it’s worth, every one of the licensed contractors working at my house, when they learn about what happened with Corey, are outraged. A few had their own stories of CSLB sting operations done to “catch” them doing something wrong.
      So this is not a matter of handymen versus licensed contractors. This is case of excessive governmental over reach that has interfered with a good man’s ability to work. But this case has highlighted the necessity for the law to change.

  8. Randall Smith says:

    Interesting blame game for right to work. Somehow our current President is responsible! Good luck on reform in a state controlled by a 2/3 bullet proof present rule supported legislature. Turtle Bay, Dignity Wellness, San Diego Convention Center and hundreds of other places have known this brut power. You have to wonder with our regulatory nightmare if unions exist for any purpose except wage, hours and job protection.

    So sorry Doni. Keep in mind not long ago this nation built the Transcontinental Railroad from Omaha to Sacramento with hand tools in four years. Compare that with the non functional Bay Bridge replacement, 17 years. You are not alone in wondering what happened.

    • amy gibbs says:

      Probably an unfortunate analogy, Randall. The Transcontinental Railroad was also built by Chinese, Irish and other “undesirables” who worked for almost nothing and died by the hundreds in horrendous conditions. I’m thinking you are not wanting that to be the case again.

      • Anita Brady says:

        Glad you added that historical correction.

      • K. Beck says:

        Thank You Amy! And then there was all that cotton that got picked…

      • Tim says:

        Rather a revisionist take, no? The Chinese earned even less in China and were dropping just as dead in droves. In America they saw opportunity and have, on average, done better over the generations than the whites they worked beside.

        Some would say Corey was working for “almost nothing” — but I’d note that he was working to the satisfaction of everyone involved – himself included. Perhaps he doesn’t have thousands to put toward becoming a “licensed” contractor. Perhaps he never excelled in school and has little chance of passing a written examination. Perhaps he is afraid of throwing all that money away and failing the criminal background check for something he did years ago (especially if he doesn’t feel comfortable writing a statement of rehabilitation).

        I don’t know Corey so none of that may be the reason he doesn’t want to become a licensed contractor, but I do know that our society’s licensing laws do a fantastic job of screening out the impoverished/disadvantaged and a poor job of weeding out the incompetent. In the era of Yelp, is there really a need for the government to license cosmetologists, masseurs, even tour guides ( )? If you really dig into the history of these laws, you’ll see most were written to prevent immigrants from “taking our jobs” & are why on any given day you can catch an uber in a big city from someone who successfully practiced medicine/law/engineering in their former country…

  9. Dustin says:

    Since my comment is awaiting moderation, I’ll reword it.
    Sounds like Corey needs some work… does he sweep Chimneys? I’d like to hire him! That guy from the state stinks!

    • Thank you, Dustin, for cleaning up your comment so we could publish it. We like to keep things civil, even when we’re upset. (If it makes you feel any better, I’ve used some words in the last week that weren’t fit for print here.)

  10. Richard Christoph says:

    “If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, “the law is a ass – a idiot”.

    • Beverly Stafford says:

      I may have the wrong person, but Christine Jorgensen or another of the other early sex reassignment recipients was interviewed on one of the early talk shows – perhaps David Frost – and her retort to the comment, “But it’s against the law,” was just as Mr. Bumble said, “The law is an ass.” Doni’s situation certainly proves it.

  11. Larry says:

    Solution…Adopt Cory, then as a “family member” he replaces door know and you give him an allowance. Sorry, this situation sucks.

  12. Virginia says:

    My understanding when I did accounting, it was each job (ie: cabinets or window removal or yard work) was one (1) job. Not the combination of ten, twenty, or fifty jobs a year. Check into that Doni as any one can be an idiot that works for the State and interprets its law.

    Specify with each check what the job was that you are paying for. That should take care of the Sac idiot!

    • I have all the check carbons, and a tally of all the individual jobs Corey has done, which I’m keeping for my taxes.

    • Martin Clark says:

      I wholeheartedly agree. As a state employee I can say from experience that the majority of my coworkers are power hungry idiots that wouldn’t be able to survive in the private sector. In my division of 30 people only 5 would I actually hire or keep. Please, at the very least, consult an attorney.

  13. Joanne Gifford says:

    This is heart breaking.

  14. Barbara Lorentz says:

    What a waste of taxpayers money.
    If Corey needs work, I’ve got some for him-under $500. Email me, Corey!

  15. CoachBob says:

    I should have added that, IMO, these a-holes in Sac are wannabe cops and are frustrated that they couldn’t get thru the academy. Just my thought…..
    Last, I don’t think anyone turned Corey in. They turned YOU in! Just my thought, again…

  16. name says:

    Very ridiculous! I fully understand the need for the CSLB and their enforcement actions – but there are far more egregious situations going on all over the state that should be addressed first. The work your guy is doing seems fairly insignificant compared to most.

    When you first started this story, there were a few comments where busy-body people were sticking their beak in and questioning if you even had permits, etc. (As if you were going to do a public story on construction without permits!) I’ll bet it was one of these individuals that turned you in. People with too much free time on their hands, and nothing productive to do with their lives (they ought to go volunteer in Puerto Rico, instead of worrying about your handyman being licensed or not)

    Time to turn the tables – please let us know who the informer is. The readers of your story could then see if that person is in violation of literally anything, then inform the proper agency/bureau, etc.

    • I won’t share the name of the person I suspect. I have enough on my plate without a lawsuit.

      However, I am hoping that karma will prevail.

      And regarding my writing that makes my personal life public, it’s what I’ve done my entire career. I have family members who wince when I write about personal stuff, because they’ve seen the negative fallout that follow my columns.

      But situations like this I see as a public service to write about. I’m counting on something good coming from this.

  17. Roger Stroude says:

    Once again the difference between the law and justice – and common sense!

  18. Brandon says:

    Just hire him as your employee. Problem solved!

    Employee Exemption: Employees who are paid wages, who do not work in an independently established business, and who do not have direction or control over the performance of the work or who do not determine the final results of the work or project are not required to have a contractor’s license.

  19. Karen says:

    Does Corey set tile? I can’t get any licensed tile contractor to even call me back. Ther must be a way to pay him in an alternative currency (I just made that up) that will not be problematic.

  20. name says:

    Perhaps the readers here could hire the Corey guy for a lot of small $499 or less projects, word of mouth, plus readers on here – he should be able to stay busy (if he wants to).

  21. Common Sense says:

    Well….I have to really call it as I see it…..Bull Shit!!…..Government Over Reach and an EGO….that’s what I see here!…….Don’t we have Better things to do with our Time Mr Enforcer-Stoddard???….Now I totally get if you were paying him thousands upon thousands to do Contractors Grade work*Skilled Work….I get that…..but a Handy Man that needs to make a living and the scope and type of work….Give me a Break Contractors State Licensing Board!

    And to the Union Thumper that turned this man in for trying to make a living…Shame on YOU! Karma… will return to Ye!

    And YES…Let’s Change that LAW!!….. Any work over $2000 on a single project!

    If this poor man ends up on the street his sign should say “The Contractors State Licensing Board” made this HAPPEN!…I just wanted to WORK!….you know…the Old Fashioned Way to make Money!!

  22. Beverly Stafford says:

    I may have the wrong person, but Christine Jorgensen or another of the other early sex reassignment recipients was interviewed on one of the early talk shows – perhaps David Frost – and her retort to the comment, “But it’s against the law,” was just as Mr. Bumble said, “The law is an ass.” Doni’s situation certainly proves it.

  23. The Contractors Licensing Board provides a much needed service to protect individuals from cheating and unscrupulous workers who think they are contractors. Redding is full of them.
    Remember it is associations of contractors who lobby for and create these agencies. Just as building codes are written by trade groups and material suppliers who want their products built into codes.
    Handy/persons provide necessary services.
    Stoddard is abusing his powers and should be reported.

  24. Frank Treadway says:

    Doni, call the staff at Assemblymember Dahle’s office here in Redding and: 1. ask them to research every so-called rule this SAC dude stated to you, and 2. ask for a meeting with Dahle and discuss legislative change. This makes one not only angry, but downright POd. I’ll vol for you anytime.

  25. cheyenne says:

    Doni, I do believe, like a few others, that this was about you. Most contractors wouldn’t care about Corey doing handyman work, in fact they probably have used and are using handymen like Corey themselves at times. What is unfortunate is that the collateral damage is done to Corey because some lowlife was unhappy with you, or Anews or even some of the contributors printed on here. Steve Towers, LOL, with a smile.

    • Not to make this all about me, but I agree with you. I have NO doubt it’s about me, and someone who was ticked off at me. And it breaks my heart that Corey is a victim of the collateral damage.

    • Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

      “Steve Towers, LOL, with a smile.”

      That Steve guy is a good writer, but he needs to stop being such a mealy-mouth.

      Oops. Sorry, Barbara.

  26. Ann says:

    Not sure if this has been suggested but how about setting up a fund to help him get his license.

  27. Gary Solberg says:

    Business and Professions Code section 7048 and its $500 threshold exemption for work requiring a license was enacted in 1939. I believe that $500 in 1939 is approximately the equivalent of $8,625 in 2017 dollars.

    7048 reads:

    This chapter does not apply to any work or operation on one undertaking or project by one or more contracts, the aggregate contract price which for labor, materials, and all other items, is less than five hundred dollars ($500), that work or operations being considered of casual, minor, or inconsequential nature.

    This exemption does not apply in any case wherein the work of construction is only a part of a larger or major operation, whether undertaken by the same or a different contractor, or in which a division of the operation is made in contracts of amounts less than five hundred dollars ($500) for the purpose of evasion of this chapter or otherwise.

    This exemption does not apply to a person who advertises or puts out any sign or card or other device which might indicate to the public that he or she is a contractor or that he or she is qualified to engage in the business of a contractor.

  28. Eleanor says:

    So, Jason Stoddard mentioned ‘the possibility of a jury trial’, huh? Put me in, coach! Put me on that jury, please! Let’s get this all over the media, and have Mr. Stoddard back up in Redding on the stand this time, facing a bunch of citizens, not just Corey, explaining the logic and law of his position, and also his behavior towards Corey and you. Indefensible arrogance! Let him explain it in court, I love it! Hung up on you, huh? Good grief! Who pays whose salary here?? Jury trial! Jury trial! (And, Doni, I do hope you can convey to Corey the general feeling out here about what has been visited on him so mercilessly.)

  29. Shelley says:

    I am thoroughly disgusted. What a load of S*&T. I really don’t even have the words to express my outrage at this.

  30. Emma says:

    Pay your handyman $499 for the job. Give
    him a nice tip at the conclusion of the job for the great job he did.

  31. Doug says:

    so your guy Corey, handyman, may or may not pay taxes on the money you and others pay him because he may or may not have a business license, but a licensed contractor does. He may or may not have insurance for him and his workers if he cares to use them because he is not a licensed contractor which would mean you actually are the General Contractor yourself and you must have Workers Comp on your guy Corey. Do you? How about the work Corey does? Is it up to code? If not, it is on you, Doni. You will be fined, not Corey and will have to pay to have it brought up to code. I see people work around the law by creating multiple invoices less than $500 but when you work around the law, there are risks, again, to the homeowner. Personally, all I use is licensed contractors because I’m protected from faulty workmanship, slip and fall claims, code violations, liability issues and more. You are silly if you don’t. The law was put in place to protect the consumer. Ignorance of the law will not protect you in a suit.

    • Why do you assume he won’t pay taxes on the money I paid him?

      Did you miss the paragraph where I listed the collective tens of thousands of dollars I’ve paid to seven licensed contractors and one architect? The architect was specifically so he could engineer a plan that would allow me to get a permit from the City of Redding.

      I’m not being ignorant. I’m being resistant to a nonsensical outdated law (see Gary Solberg’s comment above … this $500 cap was enacted in 1939!). This law is broken every day in California because it makes no sense, but in my case, Corey nor I broke any laws.

    • Justin says:

      a contractors license has no bearing on paying taxes, and is no guarantee of protection as you indicated.

  32. Doug Mudford says:

    If Corey needs help or just to talk, tell him to stop by…no charge.

    Doug Mudford

  33. Cynthia Ogrey says:

    So many excellent comments. Unions were started to protect the “little man and workers”. From the big and ugly. Then we began to be a society of the tail wagging the dog. Corey is now working for a “big named contractor.” JESUS the Carpenter. He has Corey’s back. Corey will be good. Satan is “out to kill, steal and destroy.” “GOD can turn what was meant for evil into good.” So watch for the good that will come out of this! May GOD gives the rewards that are due to those who come against GOD’s children. Doni, you have always acted with integrity and truth, I do not see you acting any other way. This will end well!

  34. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    I really feel bad for Cory, and for you. Finding a good handyman seems harder than finding a good doctor.

    I’ll just bet that Cory is going to miss working for you. I think he’ll miss it a lot.

    But, something tells me that he’s not going to be hurting for work.

    • Hal, you are correct on all counts. I miss Corey already, and I know he misses working for me, too.

      But I have a very good feeling that there will be a positive outcome from all this, and when that happens, I give thanks to Corey.

  35. Tim says:

    “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'” — Ronald Reagan

    Was there any evidence of shoddy work that would endanger the public? Were all parties entering a mutually beneficial arrangement? No? So whom are we protecting?
    That said, I don’t hate the contractor who turned you in. As a small business owner, the only thing worse than having to double your time/expenses in complying with our government’s byzantine regulations, is doing so while competing against those who do not.
    The solution, in my opinion, is a libertarian State of Jefferson. You could stack all of the world’s various religious texts and they would not come close to a stack of all California regulations. The state is too big, too complicated, to be this rigorously regulated…

    “few of the criminals in Sing Sing regard themselves as bad men. They are just as human as you and I. So they rationalize, they explain.” — Lewis Lawes

    I can guarantee that the tin badge from Sacramento feels he is doing good work. He feels he is protecting you from exploitation by ensuring that only “qualified” workers are allowed to do these jobs. Of course, becoming “qualified” is a process that is part proving your knowledge/skills and part paying tribute to the Don.
    As for the particulars, the CLSB asserts that if a contractor affixes an existing $501 television to an existing wall, he needs to be licensed. IMO, this is wrong. That existing TV, the one you bought independently of the contractor and that you’ve previously been using on a bulky stand, is not a material supplied by the contractor to do the job and should not be included in the limit (only screws, brackets, and wiring provided by the contractor should count as materials). Otherwise we could just say any unlicensed contractor working on a $200,000 house is unqualified to replace a light bulb.

    Finally, I’d be very careful about using 1099 (and even more cautious advertising the fact). The IRS has been mildly interested in expanding the definition of “employee” and pursuing employee misclassification claims. However, you’re small fish to them and likely wouldn’t attract much scrutiny.
    California, on the other hand, has been militant in their enforcement. They care less about whether you withhold FICA and more about whether you are supplying health insurance, worker’s comp, and are paying into the state’s unemployment/disability fund. In their mind, a 1099 contractor is an “employee” if they are engaged in the same business (e.g. writing), the work being performed is regular/ongoing, whether the contractor posts a profit or loss based on his/her managerial skills, etc.

    • Richard Christoph says:

      Tim writes:

      “That said, I don’t hate the contractor who turned you in.”

      What leads you to believe that Doni’s nemesis is a contractor? I think that many readers have assumed that it was a neighbor or perhaps the commenter who recently shared, “I never liked you, Doni.”

      • Tim says:

        From the comments:

        Steve posited, “Wouldn’t surprise me if it was a local conservative contractor who dropped the dime. Maybe one working on Doni’s house.”

        Doni replied, “Steve, you win the kewpie doll…”

  36. Cal Hunter says:

    These laws are primarily to protect contractors from the competition on the low end of the economic spectrum. There is very little protection of the public here, although sometimes the system works that way. Mostly it protects contractors, and their unionized employees from people who will do just as good a job if not better, for less money and a lot less hassle. Ask the handyman for proof of insurance. If they don’t have it, don’t hire them. Mostly, State of California… LET PEOPLE LIVE THEIR LIVES. Enough already! Handymen need a lobbyist and some campaign contributions, and then maybe the laws will loosen up a little. Protection? Turns out we need consumer protection… FROM THE STATE! What good was done here? What harm was cured, what wrong was righted? None. But a snoopy neighbor caused grief to a nice guy who found a niche in the world and is living his own life the way he chooses. We can do better as a state but as long as big labor and big government have a stranglehold on society, it seems unlikely.

  37. Dan says:

    🙁 Sad. The state of California is once again on another flight of fancy. They are on a mission to tax the “underground economy” the last few years. I have THREE letters on my desk accusing me of underreporting income….based on….my having “professional licenses”. .The fact that I am a retired senior receiving retirement checks does not compute. The state employee I spoke to on the phone did not understand the concept that ALL insurance companies issue 1099s. I explained to him “I am retired” and” I don’t meet Insurance company presidents in a dark bar and get $100 bills as cash payment”. Something is really wrong with our state when it comes to common sense.

  38. Common Sense says:

    Jason Stoddard appears to be a frustrated want to be Police Officer! With a Degree in Criminal Justice and being a former loss prevention officer at Macy’s in the past…..I am guessing he might have an old Crown Vic in his driveway bought at Auction?…You know the ones…they still have the spotlight on them….and if you are really lucky…they have Two spotlights still!

  39. Karen C says:

    I have no printable words to offer. It has all been said beautifully in above posts. So sorry Doni!

  40. Janine Hall says:

    I have a small job for a good handy man too. Doni I am sorry this crap happened to you and Cory

  41. Connie Koch says:

    I have been on both sides of this issue. My ex-boyfriend was pretty much forced into getting his Contractor’s license because the property he was working on didn’t want to pay Worker’s Compensation on him and the job was a very big fence job (48 acres worth of fencing). So, I helped him study for it and he passed. It costs money to get his license, it also costs money to get business and liability insurance, city business license, as well as a bond (which protects the consumer, should the contractor walk out on a job and not complete it). These things are not cheap. It also costs money to advertise your business, it costs money in fuel to go out to give “free” estimates, and many times not getting the job. Some contractors also have equipment (backhoes, excavators, dump trucks, etc.) to maintain, license, register and fuel. Not to mention employees to pay, etc. And we haven’t even gotten to the taxes they pay! There is self-employment tax, worker’s compensation on employees, payroll taxes, etc.

    The most frustrating thing about being a licensed contractor is you hear a customer say “oh I can’t afford that , I can get a crew of illegal guys to do that much cheaper.” And when some of those “illegals” are willing to work for $10.00 or $12.00 an hour, how can a Contractor charge $25.00 or $35.00 an hour? And that usually doesn’t even cover his costs. It is a double edged sword, you charge the going rate (somewhere in the range of $50+ an hour) and you risk not getting the job. Or you charge to little and they either think you don’t have the experience and you aren’t able to cover your costs of doing business.

    The bottom line is a licensed contractor is (or at least should be) insured, they provide a written contract, they are bonded and they have spent many years gaining the knowledge and expertise they have in their field.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against hiring a handyman, however, they have their time and place. But the State Licensing Board is there for a reason and it is to protect the contractors who have invested their time and money to be legit! It is also to protect the homeowner from the people who are not insured, licensed and bonded or who scam the homeowner. I know your guy isn’t or wasn’t a scam, but there are reasons they have a limit that the typical handyman can charge.

    Being in business for yourself is not easy. Just my humble opinion.

    • I hear you. I’m self-employed, too, you know. But remember, I’m all for licensed contractors (see above … I hired 7, not counting the architect). I’m talking handyman work here … not contractor work.

      I also understand the need for the CSLB to “protect” us … but in this case, they were flat out wrong, and have caused a good guy, a hard worker, to lose his ability to work for me, one of his happiest customers.

    • Janis says:

      Where is that licensed contractor that charges $25-35/per hour…I can’t hardly find a handyman for that price.

  42. Jim Pernell says:

    Hi Doni,
    After reading about the very aggressive investigator from the CSLB who contacted you I noticed on their website that they have been having a big crackdown on “unlicensed contractors” for over a year now. Even going so far as to conduct “sting operations”. This apparently is coming from the top, so maybe the law does need to be changed to allow hard working handy men to make a living. I wish you all the best and the most favorable outcome possible. Sincerely, Jim Pernell Check out this link:

  43. Judith King says:

    It was that Insurance Dude wasn’t it?

  44. Kandi says:

    I could be completely wrong, but I am under the impression that you can register as the owner contractor for your own project. If you pay over that maximum amount you just have to do a 1099 IRS form. Do check on this, but when I had my pool put in that is what we did and when I added the master suite over the garage that is how I did it. Of course, I did a lot of the work myself, painting, etc., but if I hired someone, such as your Corey, I completed a 1099 form.

  45. Kandi says:

    Another point, is that I have been told that magic dollar amount is $600.00, not $500.00. Again, I am no expert, but that is the rule I have always used and when I just now looked it up that is the dollar amount I found.

  46. Dean Germano says:

    Wow.. Someone had it in for either you or him. I hope our DA gets wind of this and quickly drops the case. She has real crimes to deal with instead of this BS. I would also reach out to our Assemblyman and Senator. Not sure they can do much but they can certainly raise cane with the Board!

    • Well, Dean, you know how it goes … Sometimes a person’s viability makes them a better target. In my case, I know someone had it out for me, and Corey was a victim of someone’s misdirected anger.

      You are correct when you say that our DA has real crimes to deal with (holy cow … I can’t keep up with the crime press releases on ANC!).

      I didn’t mention this in the column, but the way in which Stoddard spoke to Corey — calling him a fraud, threatening him with jail, not listening to Corey when he tried to explain — has really done a number on Corey, who’s a sensitive guy.

      I wish to God I’d been here when Stoddard showed up on my property to bust Corey. I feel horrible that Corey was put through this ordeal because of someone’s ax to grind with me, and I that wasn’t here as the homeowner to defend Corey and address Stoddard myself.

      I got a taste of what Corey experienced when I spoke with Stoddard on the phone. I really tried my best to maintain a professional demeanor, but by the end of the conversation I felt angry, demeaned and patronized.

      What is really frustrating and shocking, actually, is that one false complaint was all it took for Stoddard to make the drive here and assume the information was correct, despite Corey and I both telling Stoddard he was mistaken.

      I hired Corey to complete handyman projects. I was happy. He was happy. Where’s the crime?

      I already have an appointment with a representative Monday. I am dead serious that my goal is to change the law. I hope they name the bill after Corey.

  47. Steve says:

    In the State Of Insanity where the individuals in Sacramento legislate laws biased on stupidly, lack of common sense and expose our communities to criminals classified as non violent when they commit rape and such, whom don’t serve sufficient jail time. Then, a man is prosecuted for making a living staying off welfare, what sense does this make, NONE. Stupidity and lack of common sense =’s a dysfunctional state system. Donnie, you know I from where I talk, Regares

  48. Laura says:

    I need Corey’s number. I have work for him. Please send him my contact info

  49. Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    I am infuriated and saddened by your article. A friend of mine had an experience like this two years ago. I won’t go into details except that she had to destroy old outbuildings on her property because they didn’t meet current code.
    The key to your story is that my friend, and you and Corey were specifically targeted. It’s easy to do. You can, over and over again, anonymously turn in a neighbor or enemy for child abuse (if they have children SPS has to follow up on the complaint) animal abuse, or code violations (whether any violation is visible. The complaint my friend got said “From Google Earth there looks to be….”).
    I think of the current system as a huge steam roller. Once someone anonymously turns on the key, protocols in place will grind forward without considerations for particulars of a situation. Inspectors and government agents will step forward to do their job and uphold the law.

    • Your steamroller image is chilling, but it is an apt description. I’m sorry for anyone stuck beneath the wheels of this maddening machinery. It feels crappy, for sure.

      • Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

        Doni, “my friend” hasn’t been the same since her experience. She lost faith in what she, until that time, had thought was a logical system for keeping people safe in this county. She like you, obey the law. To suddenly become an unwitting “law breaker” is a scary and demoralizing. The pen is stronger than the steam roller though. Something has to change.

        • Tim says:

          The more laws, the harder it becomes to remain in bounds… It is hell on honorable, law-abiding people, but the powerful just:
          1) use their influence to carve out exemptions
          2) treat a certain amount of regulatory fines as “the cost of doing business” and figure they’ll make it up all the times they don’t get caught
          3) seek out loopholes to work around the law.

          In 1985, 1 in 50 people owned a business with employees; that ratio has declined to 1 in 75 today.

  50. Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    Thank you for having the courage to share this story. Please keep us informed about Corey. Would that I could be a juror on his trial, should this travesty of justice ever make it into a courtroom.

  51. Rudy says:

    I have a suggestion, I understand the problem that most homeowners deal with when it comes to hiring a licensed contractor verses a non-licensed handyman. I think it would be good to raise the limit to $5,000 to cover materials and labor plus make the handyman get bonded. A $500,000 bond only cost about $100 a month. That’s affordable enough to make a living for a handyman and it will protect the homeowner as well.

  52. John Wilson says:

    The interesting thing is they came to town and ticketed a bunch of unlicensed contractors to show up to court. Most of the citied showed up and the Licensed board did not. They did not complete their job, too much work I guess.

  53. Aaron Alt says:

    If there is a petition or something to sign to get the law changed I’d like to know. I was a handyman/independent contractor and recently got a general contractor license. The cost for licenses, fees, insurance, etc is hardly worth getting a job for $600 as opposed to $500. Especially if the majority of the price is for material. At the very least it would make sense to adjust the dollar amount from 1939 values to 2017 values.

  54. conservative says:

    Could a licensed contractor explain? Maybe Corey should get a general contractor’s license. It would allow him to advertise on Anewscafe and other places. Contractors have to post a large bond and pass an exam.
    What are the other problems with getting a license?

  55. conservative says:

    During the housing bubble, I built two houses using licensed contractors. I did the finished carpentry and painting myself. I lived in a trailer during construction which is legal and got to know the contractors and workers. My contractors told me things they should not have. The largest part of the job is framing and the licensed contractor employed people who “worked for cash”. I was surprised to learn that the main reason was to avoid paying child support. The workers moved to another contractor when child support enforcement caught up with them. They were a pretty rough bunch with occasional fighting . I hated picking up the cigarette butts and beer cans on my property. On one job, the two sheetrock hangers drank a 12 pack starting at “beer thirty” then drove home when they were too drunk to work. I got to hear some interesting stories, like the guy who spent six months in the brig before being allowed to complete his service obligation in the Marine Corps. He was missing the last joint of his thumb which was bitten off in a fight. The workers were even less guarded than the contractors. A couple of times I heard the question “are you going to 1099 me?”

    Shasta county has a huge underground economy. I imagine the $100 million commercial pot growing industry does not issue many 1099s or W-2s. One third of the cars stolen are never recovered and I doubt the chop shop operators don’t issue 1099s.

  56. I love the way you think, Eleanor. I have a feeling though that if you were called for jury duty on this trial, your bias would be a parent and you wouldn’t even be allowed to be on the jury. Besides, one of the problems with the system, is that a jury would be asked to uphold whatever law is in place.

  57. Eleanor says:

    You’re right, of course, Doni. It was just a pipe dream that we could get this Stoddard to have to explain his loutish behavior to we the citizens. And speaking to Corey that way? Hideous! Who are they hiring in ‘government’ these days. Oh, wait, I know………..
    So pleased you are moving forward with your meeting on Monday. There are a lot of voters on this site.

  58. Chris K says:

    Is he still “allowed” to sell the furniture he makes? Or is our lovely State Government going to threaten to fine and/0r jail him for that too?

  59. Nick says:

    I completely agree 110% with your post and I surely hope and pray that the situation changes for the better. I can relate in many ways to Corey and the situation. I have disabilities. I am unable to get Social Security (or, at least, not without a 10-year fight for it, as I’m told) so I HAVE to work for my money. My mental disabilities hinder my ability to get jobs. I am just starting out now in the petsitting business but it is slow and at 29 years old I often have $0 – literally. I just recently got my license but I am not brave enough to drive on my own. I have no car and no social life. I also do a lot of woodworking and small handyman-type jobs for a couple friends and the money I get from that helps me to even just buy food. Our society and government is geared for everyone who is athletic, smart, fast, great social skills, outgoing, fit, and rich. It is not suitable for people like me. I have NO help in life and I am constantly pushing myself harder and harder to do tasks that I need to get done in order to just survive. I battle every day with that “completely stuck in life” feeling. Stuck as in getting a car requires money, which requires a job. A job often requires a car. Travel also requires a car, and rent requires money. Pretty much nothing in life here can be accomplished without a job or financial aid of some sort. But when neither option are available to you, these are the types of jobs that can really help you out in life. I have exhausted all other options and it has left me doing odd small jobs like Corey’s. I applaud him… I don’t care what the government says. Good for him for making a living doing what he loves. Living life in California is nearly impossible if you are not successful or have disabilities like mine. The culture is too fast. The cost is too high. Financial Aid/Social Security is too hard to acquire for those with real disabilities and help is too limited or even non-existent. And the Government is way too controlling. And it just keeps getting worse.

    • Nick, I can tell you’re a hard worker, and you’re smart, too. I know things can seem bleak at times, especially when you seem you’re in this alone.

      What kinds of odd jobs do you do? I’ll bet some one here on A News would need whatever services you offer.

      Please don’t give up, Nick. I’m glad you are here on A News Thank you for sharing. Come back and comment any time.

  60. Beverly Stafford says:

    For Doni during this ghastly interval. I saw this T-shirt in a catalogue this morning:

    “Karma takes way too long; I’d rather just smack you right now.”

  61. Canda Williams says:

    This makes me so mad, I don’t dare post the words in my head! I know how incredible Corey has been, and this is just WRONG. I’m so sorry, Doni.

  62. R.V. Scheide says:

    Raise the cap to $5000 as several have suggested. It appears to be in line with the inflation since the law was created.

    • Beverly Stafford says:

      Since the wheels of legislation turn sooooo sloooowly, it will probably take a very looooong time for the legislature to act on something as simple and logical as raising the cap.

  63. Peggy says:

    I think the licensing board went for the little guy..and I really believe they see their job as being there to protect the contractors. I had a shower a licensed leaked and was not properly installed..contractor refused to fix it and licensing board was no help..and all the paperwork I did,,being a licensed contractor protects the contractor more often than the homeowner in my experience. Sorry for you Doni and for Corey..very upsetting..

    • I’m so sorry for what happened to you, Peggy. The CSLB should have helped you, especially since the shoddy work was done by a licensed contractor. I have to keep reminding myself that the CSLB is part of the Consumer Affairs department, which is supposed to help us, the consumers.

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