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Surprise sweep for unregistered contractors turns up numerous violations

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May 14, 2015

More sweeps to come throughout Washington

Tumwater – Hiring unregistered contractors is risky for homeowners and encourages unfair competition against registered contractors. That's why the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is launching a fourth year of sweeps to find contractors who are breaking the rules.

A recent two-day sweep in Walla Walla found four contractors who either were unregistered or who had hired unregistered contractors. Each was cited by L&I for unregistered contracting, an infraction that carries a fine of up to $5,000.

During surprise sweeps, multiple inspectors team up for the checks in selected communities on Friday and weekend days and evenings. That's in addition to their regular work paying unannounced visits to construction sites year-round to check whether contractors are registered.

More sweeps are planned throughout the state in the coming months.

"We hope these surprise sweeps send a message to all unregistered contractors who try to beat the system," said Elizabeth Smith, who directs L&I Fraud Prevention & Labor Standards. "We're not just looking for violators during normal business hours. L&I could be at any job site at any time, any day of the week — so don't even try working if you're breaking the rules."

Unregistered contractors typically have no insurance and no bond, making it tough for consumers to recover damages if something goes wrong on a project.

Legitimate contractors support sweeps

"L&I's surprise sweeps help level the playing field for the contractors and subcontractors in our association," said Jeff Losey, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Tri-Cities. "All of our members are licensed, bonded and insured. Unregistered contractors don't pay those costs, and can submit lower bids for jobs from unsuspecting consumers."

All too often, consumers encounter problems when hiring unregistered contractors.

"We get the phone calls from people who went with someone who wasn't licensed," said Losey, whose group is based in Kennewick. "There's not much we can do except refer them to the resources and members listed on our website for their next project."

Contractors with no workers' comp insurance

In the Walla Walla sweep in April, inspectors visited 16 job sites, where they checked 33 contractors, two plumbers and an electrician. The inspectors issued seven citations, including three plumbing infractions, which carry a fine of up to $1,000.

The inspectors also referred six contractors to L&I's workers' comp audit program; three of those contractors had no insurance to cover employees injured on the job. In addition, inspectors referred six contractors who owe money to L&I to the department's collection program, and referred one contractor to the department's workplace safety program.

State law requires general and specialty contractors to register with L&I, which confirms they have insurance and a bond, and meet other requirements.

To learn how to Hire Smart when building or remodeling, go to www.ProtectMyHome.net.

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For media information: Debby Abe, L&I Communications, 360-902-6043, debby.abe@Lni.wa.gov.

Connect with L&I: Facebook (facebook.com/laborandindustries) and Twitter (twitter.com/lniwa)

Broadcast version:
The state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has launched a fourth year of surprise sweeps to find unregistered contractors.

A recent two-day sweep in the Walla Walla area found four contractors who either were unregistered or who had hired unregistered contractors.  Each was cited with unregistered contracting, an infraction that carries a fine of up to $5,000.

The inspectors also found contractors who had no insurance to cover employees injured on the job, and others that appeared to be violating a workplace safety rule or owed L&I money for past violations.

State law requires general and specialty contractors to register with L&I, which confirms they have insurance and a bond, and meet other requirements.

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