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Washington joins multi-state sting targeting illegal construction activities

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July 1, 2015

Tumwater – A multi-state sting that included the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) turned up more than 40 cases of illegal construction activity or advertising in Washington state.

L&I issued six infractions for unregistered contracting, 13 for plumber certification violations and 22 for construction-related advertising violations.

Nine-state sting zaps unregistered contractors

L&I found the violators June 15 to 26 as part of a national sting to deter illegal construction activity. The National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies coordinated the operation. Nine states that belong to the association participated: Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Washington.

"We want contractors who are breaking the law to know that we’re out there looking for them," said Elizabeth Smith, who directs L&I Fraud Prevention & Labor Standards. "Together with our counterparts in other states, our goal is to protect consumers by cracking down on unregistered contractors and assuring a level playing field for the legitimate ones."

In Washington, teams of L&I inspectors found many of the violators during unannounced "surprise sweeps" at construction sites in Kennewick, the Bellevue-Kirkland area, the Olympia area, Vancouver and several other Clark County communities. Staff inspected 257 active construction sites, where they checked 547 contractors, electricians and plumbers to make sure they were registered or certified, and were following construction-related laws.

Besides issuing infractions for contractor registration and plumber certification violations, inspectors referred 23 contractors to L&I's workers' compensation audit program for possible violations. They referred 44 contractors who owe money to L&I to the department's collection program.

Online searches for illegal activity

Along with visiting construction sites, L&I searched the Internet for Washington violators.

L&I’s Detection and Tracking Unit reviewed 145 electronic advertisements, mainly Craigslist ads, and issued 22 advertising-related violations. The law requires construction contractors to be registered to advertise.

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

L&I works year-round paying unannounced visits to construction sites and searching for unregistered contractors online.

Hire Smart

The agency urges consumers to Hire Smart when looking for a contractor.

Before hiring construction contractors:

  • Verify their contractor registration at www.Lni.wa.gov/Verify.
  • Get three written bids.
  • Don't pay in full until the job gets done.
  • Ask for references and check them.
  • Get more hiring tips at L&I’s www.ProtectMyHome.net or call 1-800-647-0982.

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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:
A multi-state sting that included the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) turned up more than 40 cases of illegal construction activity or advertising in Washington state.

L&I issued six infractions for unregistered contracting, 13 for plumber certification violations and 22 for construction-related advertising violations. The department found the violators June 15 to 26 as part of a national sting to deter illegal construction activity. 

State law requires general and specialty contractors to register with L&I, which confirms they have insurance and a bond, and meet other requirements. Electricians and plumbers must be certified by L&I. For tips on hiring contractors, go to www.ProtectMyHome.net.

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