L&I launches campaign encouraging homeowners to hire registered contractors

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TUMWATER —As spring and summer remodeling projects begin, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is launching a statewide radio advertising campaign urging homeowners to protect themselves from being taken advantage of by unregistered contractors.

“When it comes to hiring contractors, the lowest bid can come at the highest price,” says Carl Hammersburg, Fraud Prevention and Compliance Program Manager.  “Fortunately, L&I offers a number of ways for homeowners to protect themselves.”

The radio ads direct visitors to HiringaContractor.Lni.wa.gov, where homeowners can see if their contractor is registered, bonded and insured. They also can check whether a contractor has any citations or unpaid judgments.

Unregistered contractors underbid their competition because they misclassify their workers to dodge unemployment taxes and workers’ compensation insurance premiums. They also do not carry a bond or insurance, which can sting a homeownershould something go wrong with the job.

About half of homeowners interviewed to prepare for the ad campaign said they didn’t know if a contractor they used in the past was registered. The 2008 Legislature funded the statewide-campaign to make more consumers aware of the need to hire only registered contractors.

“This campaign is the first step in tackling the underground economy,” said Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who chairs the Labor, Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, and helped pass the 2008 legislation. “We want to empower consumers to make smart choices, and reduce demand for contractors working underground.”

At HiringaContractor.Lni.wa.gov, consumers can also find easy-to-follow checklists of what to do before, during and after their home improvement project including:

  • What protections should be included in your contract before work begins
  • How to protect yourself against liens
  • How to identify a scam
  • Other tips and tools to protect yourself and manage your construction project

Consumers without internet access can check the status of their contractor’s registration by calling 1-800-647-0982.

Report unregistered contractors online or by calling 1-888-811-5974.

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For media information: Selena Davis, L&I, 360-902-6878.

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