If Disaster Strikes: What to Know About California Law Following a Storm

February 14, 2017

WEST SACRAMENTO, CALIF., – In anticipation of the upcoming storms in Northern California, the Sacramento Better Business Bureau (BBB) is reminding businesses and consumers of the state laws in place that prohibit excessive price hikes during a state of emergency. This is following California State Governor, Jerry Brown’s declaration on Sunday in response to the situation at Oroville Dam. Click here for a list of tree services in your area!

“If a natural disaster strikes, local businesses may be overwhelmed with an influx of customers. We want to help businesses avoid potential problems whenever our community comes together to help one another in a time of need,” said Gary Almond, President of the Sacramento Better Business Bureau.

Industries affected by the consumer protection laws during a state of emergency include, but are not limited to, hotels, gas stations, and tree services. 

If you need to make preparations to stay at a hotel: 

  • Know that according to California law, under Penal Code 396, 30 days after a state of emergency is declared, it is illegal for a business or other entity to sell their goods or services for more than ten percent of their regular rate. This includes hotels, motels, the sale of food items, gasoline, and any goods or services used for emergency cleanup, emergency supplies, and building materials. Consumers who are told otherwise should file a complaint with their local Better Business Bureau, the California Attorney General and their local District Attorney’s Office.

If you need to hire a service to trim, or a remove a tree from your property:

  • Contact your insurance company first. Your provider may require the use of specific contractors and have certain procedures you must follow in order to receive full coverage.
  • Be wary of ‘storm chasers’ who advertise services on flyers in local neighborhoods. Before doing business, always verify the company’s license when seeking out a professional tree service if the labor and materials will cost over $500. In California, if labor and materials is over this limit, they must be licensed by the Contractor’s State License Board (CSLB).
  • Obtain a written contract and be sure any additional agreements are noted. Verify in the contract where it states when the work will be started and completed, and be sure you and the contractor sign the agreement. Remember you down payment cannot exceed ten percent of the contract price or $1,000 - whichever is less.
  • Know your right to cancel. If you sign the contract in your own home, rather than the company’s headquarters, and the total cost of service exceeds $25, California law requires the company to allow you up to three days in which to cancel the contract without penalty. Your request to cancel must be in writing.

    Note: An exception to the cancellation right requirement exists for service and repair contracts performed costing $750 or less in labor and materials. According to California Law a buyer may waive their right to cancel, in part, when immediate repairs or services are required for the immediate protection of personal or real property. The contractor is also required to obtain a signed and dated statement from you which describes the situation that requires immediate remedy and that you are waiving your right to cancel the sale. However, these waivers are generally against public policy and may be void and unenforceable; meaning your right to cancel may still exist.

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