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Lifelong Learning is Always in Season

The Labor Day holiday has traditionally marked the end of summer and the return to school. Back to School advertisements abound – online, on the radio, in newspapers and catalogs. If you are an older adult, the thought of heading back to school may seem like a distant memory. It need not be. There are several ways to continue lifelong learning as the season shifts into fall.

In Contra Costa County there are many course offerings geared to seniors. This fall many of the offerings will be in-person and/or via distance learning. You could acquire new skills, gain a new hobby, or accomplish a lifetime goal.

Mt. Diablo Adult Education provides “lifelong learning opportunities for adults of all ages and abilities.” A quick sampling of their offerings includes Blogging, Cooking/Baking, English as a Second Language, High School Diploma Classes, French or Spanish, Technology Classes, Personal Enrichment, and the list goes on.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) offers a variety of interesting classes for older adults based out of the CalState East Bay Campus. OLLI is offering courses both in person and online on a variety of arts & cultural topics such as American Musical Theater, So Surreal! The Birth of Surrealism in Art & Literature, and Hollywood in the Thirties: A Window on America to name a few. Classes run for varying lengths and prices. For example, the course A Short Course on Dutch Art will run for three Tuesdays in October from 10 – 12pm in person on the Concord campus with a cost of $64 for nonmembers ($42 for members).

Senior Centers across the county are starting to re-open their doors again and are offering up a host of fun programs for older adults. Some classes may be offered through these centers. Check out the site closest to you:

Antioch

Brentwood

Concord

Martinez

Oakley

Pittsburg

Pleasant Hill

San Pablo

San Ramon

Walnut Creek

It’s always a good time to try something new.

 

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How to Hire a California Contractor

Excerpts from California State Contractors’ License Board (CSLB)
(www.cslb.ca.gov)

Before you sign a contract; Before you hire a contractor; or before you pay for work and repairs to your home; Get free information from the California State Contractors License Board on their web site. The following information is a shortened excerpt from their web site:

When hiring a contractor to perform any job on your property, take your time before you make a decision about hiring a contractor. Get at lease three bids and check references. Hire only licensed contractors. Anyone performing home improvement work valued at $500 or more must be licensed by the Contractors State License Board. Get the contractor’s license number.

Contractors State License Board

The CSLB provides information about a contractor’s license, bond and workers’ compensation insurance status, as well as pending and prior legal actions.

  • Verify License Status online
    Choose search option by License Number, Business Name, Personal Name, HIS Number (Salesperson’s Registration #), HIS Name (Salespersons Name to check the status of their registration)
    or by calling (800) 321-CSLB (2752).

Contracts:

  • Get your contract in writing and don’t sign anything until you understand the terms. (In California, there must be a written contract for all home improvement projects over $500 in combined labor and materials costs!) For more detailed information on what a Contract should contain, see CSLB on-line section “What to include in a Contract”.
  • Required in your contract: a specific description of work to be done, materials to be used, total cost of the project, and start and completion dates.
  • Ask a friend, relative, or legal representative to review the contract before you sign it.

What you should know about unscrupulous Contractor Scams. . .

  • Door-to-Door Solicitations – offers to do roofing, painting, paving work at reduced price. Once payment is made, little or not work is done ang the project is abandoned.
  • High Pressure Sales – Unscrupulous Contractor pushes for an immediate decision about work, making it impossible for homeowner to get competitive bids, check licenses or review references.
  • Scare Tactics – Deceitful contractor offer to perform a free inspection, then claims that faulty wiring, bad plumbing, or leaky roof puts homeowner in peril. Alarmed homeowner agrees to unnecessary and over-priced work.
  • Demand for Cash – Contractor demands cash payments, sometimes going so far as to drive the victim to the bank to withdraw funds. The unscrupulous operator takes the money and runs
  • Illegally Large Down Payments – Dishonest contractor takes more for a down payment that allowed by law, claiming to need instant cash for supplies and to pay workers, by law, a down payment cannot exceed 10 percent of the project price or $1,000, whichever is less.
  • Verbal Agreements – Contractor states that a written contract is unnecessary-promising to deliver the verbal agreement. Shady operator takes advantage of the situation to perform shoddy work—or none at all.

Payments:

  • Don’t pay cash.
  • Include a payment schedule in your written contract.
  • Don’t pay more than 10 percent of the job or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment
  • Don’t let payments get ahead of the work.

ALERT Be advised that unlicensed individuals pose a risk to you and your family’s financial security if a worker is injured while on your property, your property is damaged, or if the work is incomplete and/or faulty. Few, if any, unlicensed individuals have a bond or workers’ compensation insurance. The quality of their work usually doesn’t compare to that of a licensed contractor. Don’t take the chance in order to save a few dollars. You’ll probably end up paying more in the long run.

CSLB licenses contractors in 44 different classifications. This ranges from general contractors to swimming pool contractors, landscapers, painters, electricians, plumbers and many more. It will be easier to decide the right type of contractor if you carefully plan your project in advance and clearly define what you want done to your property.

Ask for personal recommendations:

Friends and family recently may have had similar projects completed. If they are satisfied with the results, chances are you will be, too. Other resources are your local building department, trade association or union, consumer protection agency, consumer fraud unit, and the Better Business Bureau.

Verify the contractor’s business location and telephone number. A contractor who operates a business from the back of a pickup truck with a cellphone may be difficult to find if a job needs to be fixed after the last bill is paid.

Verify the contractor’s workers’ compensation and commercial general liability insurance coverage. Ask to see a copy of the Certificate of Insurance or aske for the name of the contractor’s insurance carrier and agency to verify that the contractor has insurance. In California, if a contractor has employees, he/she is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. The importance of this cannot be overstated. If a worker is injured working on your property and the contractor doesn’t have insurance, you could be financially liable to pay for injuries and rehabilitation and your homeowner insurance may or may not cover the costs. Learn more from the California Department of Insurance.

Commercial general liability insurance is not required; however, it covers damage to your property. If the contractor does not carry general liability insurance, he/she should be able to explain how damage or losses will be; otherwise, you or your insurance company could end up paying for damages.

A licensed contractor must provide you with information regarding both types of insurance in your written contract.

Contractor Bonds:

California licensed contractors are required to have a contractor license bond. It’s important to know what bonds do and do not cover. Some bonds are designed to protect you against substandard work that does not meet with local building codes.

Bonds may be classified as:

  • Contractor License Bonds
  • Contract Bonds
  • Blanket Performance and Payment Bonds

To learn more about Contractor Bonds, visit California Contractors State License Board on-line section “Learn About Contractor Bonds”.

Building permit for my project:

This section guides you to your local building department. There are numerous building departments in California. According to the California Building Standards Code, no building or structure may be erected, constructed, enlarged, altered, repaired, moved, improved, removed, converted or demolished unless a separate permit for each building or structure has first been obtained from the building official. Code requirements vary in different cities and counties around the state. Check with your local building department to find out what’s needed in your area. You may want to check city, county and/or town if necessary. Links to those agencies in your area may be found on-line section “Do I need a building permit for my Project?”

Mechanics Liens:

Consumers are required to receive a “Notice to Owner” warning about property liens. Anyone who helps improve property, but who is not paid like subcontractors, suppliers or workers, may place what is called a mechanics lien on the property. A mechanics lien is a claim made against the property and recorded with the county.

For other ways to prevent liens, review CSLB’s publication, A Homeowner’s Guide to Preventing Mechanics’ Liens.

Canceling:

Three-day right to cancel

  • Unless the contract is negotiated at the contractor’s place of business, and/or the contract price is under $25, the buyer qualifies for a three-day right to cancel. The contractor must provide you with information on your three-day right to cancel under the “Home Solicitation Sales Act” with your contract. This notice requires a seller of home goods or services to give the buyer three days to think about whether to buy the offered goods or services.
  • To cancel, the buyer need only give the contractor written notice of his or her intent not to be bound by the contract. Under the law when the contract is canceled the seller can be required to return the entire contract amount and restore a consumer’s property to the way it was before the contract.

ALERT The exception to the three-day rule: Service and Repair contracts

  • One major exception to the three-day right to cancel is a “Service and Repair” contract that covers emergency repairs or services that are requested by the consumer on short notice.
  • The right to a three-day notice automatically is canceled the moment the contract is signed, and the contractor begins working on a “Service and Repair” contract.
  • The contract should indicate that it is a “service and repair” agreement, and the total contract price for labor and materials must be under $750.

Five-day right to cancel

Starting in 2021, seniors (those 65 and older) will have five days to cancel the following transactions: home solicitation contracts, home improvement contracts, Property Assessed Clean Energy assessment contracts, service and repair contracts, and seminar sales contracts (AB 2471).

Homeowner Checklists

This step provides a list of some questions homeowners can ask themselves to see if their contract measures up

  • Did you contact the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) on-line to check the status of the contractor’s license or did you call the CSLB for status at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752)?
  • Did you get at least three local references from the contractors you are considering?
  • Did you call them and see the work the contractor completed?
  • Does the contract require the contractor get any needed permits before the work starts?
  • Are the permit fees included in the contract?
  • Did you read and do you understand your contract?
  • Does the 3-day right to cancel a contract apply to you?
  • Does the 5-day right to cancel a contract (for those 65 and older) apply to you?
  • Does the contract tell you when work will start and end?
  • Does the contract include a detailed description of the work to be done, the material to be used, and equipment to be installed?
  • If you are making a down payment, make sure it is no more than 10% of the contract price or $1,000, whichever is less.
  • Is there a schedule of payments? If there is, you should pay only as work is completed and not before.
  • Did your contractor give you a “Notice to Owner,” a warning notice describing liens and ways to prevent them?
  • Did you know changes or additions to your contract must all be in writing? Putting changes in writing reduces the possibility of a later dispute.

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California’s Gubernatorial Recall Election: What you Need to Know and How to Participate

You may be aware that California is having a special election on September 14, 2021. If you haven’t been paying attention, you are not alone. Many Californians have not been following this election and turnout is expected to be low. The good news is that there is still time to register to vote and to make your voice heard in this election.

Understanding the Recall Election

The recall is a mechanism that give the public the opportunity to remove an elected official from office before that official’s term is up. In this upcoming recall, voters will decide whether they want to remove Governor Gavin Newsom from office. The recall ballot has two questions (1) whether or not to remove Governor Gavin Newson and (2) who to replace him with. Voters can vote on either or both of these questions. This means that voters can select No to question one (meaning No to removing Governor Gavin Newsom) but still select a replacement candidate.

If the majority votes Yes to removing the Governor, then Governor Newsom will be removed from office and the replacement candidate who receives the highest number of votes will be declared the winner and will serve out the rest of Governor Newsom’s term, which ends on January 2, 2023. If fifty percent or more of the voters select No to removing Governor Newsom, then he will remain in office and serve out the rest of his term. Click here to learn more about the recall election. (more…)

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Do You Have a Will?

Did you know that August is Make-A-Will Month?  Yeah, we didn’t either… but it is a handy reminder that it’s always good to make a plan for your future. The emergence of the Coronavirus pandemic has taught us that life can be unpredictable and fragile.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a will is “a legal declaration of a person’s wishes regarding the disposal of his or her property or estate after death.” It is used to distribute one’s assets after death and can appoint guardians for minor children. A will is important to have, as it allows you to communicate your wishes clearly and precisely.

CCSLS can help. If you meet our eligibility requirements, we can help you develop a will. Contact our offices at 925-609-7900. If you are not eligible for our services, consider consulting the Contra Costa Bar Association Lawyer Referral Program or call them direct at 925-825-5700.

Don’t forget that when considering how to divide your assets, you can give to both family members and philanthropic organizations. If there are causes that are near and dear to you, you can arrange through a Bequest in your will ways to leave a legacy to nonprofit organizations. Gifts to charity upon your death can be for a specific dollar amount, a particular item, or a percentage of the estate.

Making a will can be complex. You may want to read this article on other things to consider when making a will.

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Rental Scams: What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself | Estafas de Alquiler: Lo Que Necesita Saber para Protegerse (Español abajo)

Finding an affordable place to live in Contra Costa County is difficult. Unfortunately, the lack of affordable housing opens the door for scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting renters. The good news is that you can educate yourself to recognize rental scams and take steps to protect yourself.

How Rental Scams Work

With rental scams, scammers list properties online as being for rent when in fact the scammers do not own the properties listed and have no authority to rent them out. These properties can be listed on websites like Craigslist, Facebook, or Marketplace. The scammer will try to get the prospective renter to send money via wire transfer to cover a lease or a rental deposit. With these types of scams, the person purporting to rent the property will claim that they can rent the property but may tell you that they cannot show you the unit.

Types of rental scams:

  • Knockoff listings: these are property listings that a scammer has copied and pasted from a legitimate listing. These properties are listed at a lower price to entice unwitting renters into paying money to rent the property.
  • Illegal sublets: with this scam, a scammer obtains access to a listed rental property and then shows that property to prospective renters. The scammer poses either as a legitimate owner of the property or as someone with the authority to rent the unit, but in fact the scammer has no authority to rent the unit.
  • Ghost rentals: scammers list properties that are not actually for rent or which do not even exist.

(more…)

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Nutrition and Healthy Aging

As we age, our nutritional needs change. You may need to consume fewer calories than you did before, but it is important that you continue to eat enough nutrients. Older adults must be aware of these changes and ensure that they consume a healthy balance of nutritious food.

Unfortunately, it can become more difficult to eat a healthy diet as you age. Many seniors have a harder time purchasing food and cooking. Seniors may also have trouble chewing and swallowing food, or may not have enough money to buy food. Luckily, there are resources to help older adults obtain nutritious and healthy food.

Malnutrition

A person who is malnourished is deprived of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients a person needs to maintain a healthy body. A person who is malnourished could be either undernourished or overnourished. A person who is undernourished is not consuming enough essential nutrients for their body while someone who is overnourished is eating too much, eating the wrong things, or is consuming too many vitamins or dietary replacements.

Malnutrition is very common among seniors. Approximately one in ten elders who live on their own is either under or over nourished. Common symptoms of malnutrition include an increase or decrease in appetite or weight.1 If you are concerned about your diet you should talk to your doctor. (more…)

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Anniversary of the Older Americans Act

President Lyndon B. Johnson

Every July brings up the Anniversary of the Older Americans Act (OAA).

This federal level initiative set out to establish comprehensive services for senior citizens.

Originally signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 14, 1965, the OAA created the National Aging Network comprised of the Administration on Aging on the federal level, State Units on Aging at the state level and Area Agencies on Aging at the local level. To this day, the OAA continues to support essential services for older adults across the country based primarily on the percentage of an area’s population aged 60 and older.

For FY 2021, under Title III of the OAA, for State & Community Programs on Aging, the State of California was awarded a distribution $40,399,387 for Supportive Services. For Contra Costa Senior Legal Services, our agency is a beneficiary of some funding through this act from our local Area Agency on Aging. We are so grateful for the support.

See the impact of the OAA over a five year period here.

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Aging in Place: Tips and Considerations to Help you Remain at Home

As you age, it can become harder and harder to remain in your home. This being said, many seniors aspire to live at home for as long as possible. This is known as aging in place.1  While you may not be able to remain at home forever, there are things you can do to make it easier to age in place. Aging in place can be beneficial to seniors for a range of reasons. Aging in place can allow a senior to remain in the home in which they feel most comfortable. The senior can continue to live in their own community, where their friends and social lives exist. (more…)

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Project Based Voucher Waiting List Opening In Richmond

A Project Based Voucher Waiting List will be opening on August 2, 2021, by The Housing Authority of Contra Costa for a property in Richmond. The waiting list will be open for seniors age 62 and older. Units available will be from studio to four bedrooms at The Terraces Senior Apartments located at 2100 Nevin Avenue in Richmond, CA. To be eligible to apply the head of household or the spouse must be at least 62 years old. To view more information in English and Spanish.

 

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Coming Out of Covid: Reintegration After a Year of Isolation

When considering all of Covid-19’s harmful effects, isolation was one of the most profound for seniors, their families, and their caregivers. Many seniors’ full and active lives were put on hold as they were forced to isolate at home, with no visitors and no in-person social activities. Now that many people are vaccinated, California has started opening up again. Many senior centers are reopening, senior living facilities have resumed welcoming guests, and mask and social distancing requirements are being relaxed. With Independence Day approaching, you may find that you have been invited to a barbecue or other social gathering. Some have greeted this re-opening and resumption of activities with joy, while others feel anxious about the prospect of having to socialize with others. For those who feel anxious and unsure about how to reintegrate back into society, here are some tips, suggestions, and referrals. (more…)

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Contact Us

2702 Clayton Rd.
Suite 202

Concord, CA 94519
(925) 609-7900
legalhelp@ccsls.org

Events Calendar

For our upcoming events, check out our calendar.

Our Mission

The mission of CCSLS is to protect the rights of seniors. By providing legal services, the organization is also able to mediate poverty and improve health outcomes for the population it serves. Lawyers are uniquely qualified to help identify and address legal issues that impede the ability of seniors to remain healthy and independent.