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Infractions for illegal plumbing on the rise in Washington state

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May 23, 2017 #17-019

Protect yourself by hiring a certified plumber

Tumwater – In today's hot construction market, the demand for plumbers is high — so high that state inspectors are finding more plumbers working illegally.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) issued 247 infractions last year to people who were doing plumbing work but weren't certified plumbers. That's up 12 percent from the previous year (220 infractions) and nearly double the number in 2013 (127). Infractions this year are rising at an even faster clip.

Consumers are encouraged to verify they're hiring certified plumbers by asking to see their L&I-issued certification cards. They can also check to see if a plumber is certified on L&I's website, www.ProtectMyHome.net, or call 1-800-647-0982.

If plumbers don't have current certification, customers should send them away and ask the plumbing company for a certified plumber.

Health consequences, repair do-overs

In Washington, only plumbers certified by L&I can legally perform plumbing work on someone else's property. In limited circumstances, L&I-licensed electricians can do some plumbing work, such as replacing electric water heaters.

The law is intended to protect consumers.

"Bad plumbing can result in extra cost and hassle for customers who have to fix faulty repairs or improperly installed toilets and other fixtures," said L&I Contractor Compliance Chief Dean Simpson. "And there are possible health effects, too.

"We've seen unqualified plumbers unknowingly allow waste water to mix with and contaminate drinking water. In other cases, improperly installed drains or venting systems have resulted in noxious sewer gases seeping into houses. No one wants that."

Homeowner policies might not cover damage caused by an uncertified plumber.

New consumer campaign

L&I just kicked off a TV and online ad campaign encouraging consumers to hire certified plumbers. The lighthearted video spot features the voices of frustrated customers leaving phone messages for an uncertified, "Fly-By-Nite" plumber who botched their plumbing projects and appears to be vacationing in Hawaii.

Many people are unaware that plumbers have to be certified in our state, and don't know how to check whether an individual plumber is properly licensed.

Certification requires years of on-the-job training

To become a journey level plumber in Washington, applicants must have four years of classroom and on-the-job training before they can even take the certification exam.

Once certified, plumbers must have their L&I-issued, credit-card-sized certification card available for inspection when they're on the job. The plastic card includes their name, certification level and expiration date. Card examples are at the "plumbing" link at www.ProtectMyHome.net.

Trainees need supervision to work on your plumbing

As construction booms around the state, L&I inspectors are finding that some plumbing companies are properly registered as contractors, but are sending uncertified plumbers or trainees without proper supervision to jobs. That's against the law, too.

Plumbing trainees and apprentices, who also must have L&I-issued cards, may work on jobs only if they are supervised by a journey level or specialty plumber.

"Companies typically charge consumers the rate for certified plumbers even if the plumber who shows up at the door is uncertified," Simpson said. "Get your money's worth and protect your investment: Hire a state-certified plumber."

Hire smart tips
  • Only hire Washington state-certified plumbers.
  • Ask to see their certification card.
  • Verify the plumber's company is registered as a contractor.
  • Check the plumber's name and company at www.ProtectMyHome.net or call 1-800-647-0982.

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

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

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