By Kurtis Ming

“I was surprised, I was mad, I was like I got gypped” Tonie Walker says about her recent locksmith experience.

She had just dropped a hundred bucks on a new lock only to find out it doesn’t do the job of keeping out those who may no longer be welcome there.

“I’d hate for my ex-husband to come in here and just take anything he just wants to take” she says.

Tonie hired Key Locksmiths in March, to re-key the lock to her Roseville condo.

The new key worked well, but so did her old key.

“And if I put it all the way in, and then try to turn it you can tell that it’s not budging” Tonie says while demonstrating. “But if I just kinda put it half way out and then find that groove, and it’ll turn, lock, and unlock it again.”

And that’s a bit unnerving for her.

“My safety and my daughter’s safety — I have a nine year old daughter and it’s just her and I in here.”

Tonie’s new husband is in Afghanistan serving his 6th deployment, so it’s up to her to get this issue resolved, fast.

She’s called Key Locksmiths several times; she says they told her they’d look into it but never did.

“The number you have called is not able to receive calls at this time” says the recording when Tonie tries the number for Key Locksmiths.

Their first number suddenly doesn’t work, and neither does the second one.

Now there’s no doubt: “I got gypped.”

A close look at the business card shows that it’s licensed, bonded, and insured.

But according to the Contractors State License Board, and the Department of Consumer Affairs, they are none of those.

Legitimate operations would show their license number on any form of advertisement as the law requires (CA Business and Professions Code 6980.64 a, b, c.)

Tonie has filed a complaint with the CSLB and DCA which say they can now open an investigation into Key Locksmiths.

And when she has this lock re-keyed, yet again, she’ll do her research and warn her friends about her experience with Key Locksmiths.

“I [will] definitely not recommend them.”

Key Locksmith’s website had no license information, nor did it list an address – two red flags.

The Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Security and Investigative Service (BSIS) says it’s in the process of writing new regulations that will allow it to cite, fine and turn off telephone numbers for instances of unlicensed activity. This should be done and in force by March or April of 2011.

Before you hire a locksmith, save yourself a lot of time, money, and stress by verifying their BSIS license.

Call the DCA’s Consumer Information Center (CIC) at (800) 952-5210, or click HERE to check licensing.

Locksmiths are also required to be licensed with the Contractor State License Board (CSLB) if they ever perform jobs in excess of $500.

The CSLB recommends you check your locksmith’s contractor license HERE

The CSLB says criminal penalties for contracting without a license (C28) increased beginning in January of 2010, which would apply to businesses and individuals “…which evaluate, set-up, install, maintain and repair all doors and door assemblies, gates, locks and locking devices….” Penalties vary:

• Civil:
o $200-$500 fine
• Criminal (misdemeanor)
o First offense: Up to $5000 and/or up to six months in jail
o Second offense: $5000 and at least 90 days in jail, up to one year
o Third offense: $10,000 and at least 90 days in jail, up to one year

The CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips as well:
• Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see the license
• Don’t rush into decisions and don’t hire the first contractor who comes along;
• Be especially hesitant when approached by someone offering home improvement services door-to-door, especially when they will use material they claim is left over from another job;
• Verify the contractor’s license by checking online or via CSLB’s automated phone service at 1-800-321-CSLB 
• Don’t pay more than 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less;
• Don’t pay cash, and don’t let the payments get ahead of the work;
• Get three bids, check references and a written contract; and
• Contact the CSLB if you have a complaint against a contractor.

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