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Call Kurtis Investigates: Unlicensed Contractor Places Lien On Home For Unfinished Work

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Eight-time Emmy Award winner Kurtis Ming is CBS13's consumer...
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GRANITE BAY (CBS13) — Brett Prahl is afraid he won’t be able to sell or refinance his house after an unlicensed contractor filed a lien against his home.

A Call Kurtis investigation uncovered filing these liens may be easier than many expect. In fact, anyone can file a lien.

In this case, not only did this contractor take on this job illegally, but he laid out the proof he broke the law by filing a lien against our viewer’s home.

Prahl said a colorful voicemail from unlicensed contractor Marcelino Cabello really startled him.

“Mother f—— piece of s— son of a b0000,” the voicemail said.

Prahl said Cabello did shoddy work on his kitchen cabinets — he said sloppy painting and drill holes prove the job wasn’t finished.

One kitchen drawer is missing a side rail completely, meaning it won’t properly slide in and out.

“No rail at all,” Prahl said, demonstrating with the drawer.

Prahl is refusing to pay the final $700 of the $4,200 job. But Cabello wants his money.

“What a mother f—— piece of s— you are,” Cabello said on a voicemail message to Prahl. “You think this is fair, you not gonna pay me?”

And now the unlicensed Cabello filed a $2,280 mechanic’s lien against Cabello’s house to collect the money.

It could hurt Prahl’s ability to sell or refinance the home and could lead to foreclosure.

“An unlicensed person is not allowed to contract in the first place, let alone place a lien,” said Melanie Bedwell of the Contractors State License Board.

The CSLB reminds us a contractor must be licensed for any job above $500 in California — in material and labor.

State law mentions if you’re doing a job that requires a license, you must have one as condition of bringing action for collection of compensation.

“To get these things off title for a property, you have to go to court,” he said.

Consumer attorney Stuart Talley said the law does not require county recorders to check whether a contractor has a license while processing a lien.

“It seems like it would be easy for the county to check for a contractor’s license before they file something on a property,” Talley said.

Placer County’s recording manager didn’t want to go on camera, but said it would take a judge — or Cabello — to remove the lien.

After he ignored several of our calls, consumer investigator Kurtis Ming stopped by Cabello’s house.

“Do you know where we could find him?”

“No,” replied a voice from inside the house.

Within a couple hours, Cabello called me back, verbally upset with Ming.

Cabello admitted he took the job illegally without a license, and said Prahl is now holding the fact he doesn’t have a license over his head, which Cabello called “a new ripoff against the Hispanic people in this country.”

But he insisted he is owed the money and will not drop the lien.

“Mother ***, we’re going to sue you for uh — for discrimination,” Cabello’s voicemail said.

Left to finish the job himself, Prahl has learned what can happen hiring an unlicensed contractor.

“How somebody could go do what he did is amazing,” Prahl said.

A mechanic’s lien is really the first step for a contractor to collect a debt.

Cabello had 90 days to file a court case to collect his money. He didn’t — and if he did, the case most likely would have been thrown out.

However, the county recorder said the lien still shows up on that property with the word “null” next to it, which could complicate the process when Prahl refinances or sells the house.

The CSLB is investigating.

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