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December 31, 1996

Bad weather brings out bad contractors, L&I warns

TUMWATER - Victims of winter storms who are in search of emergency home repairs should be extremely cautious about doing business with unregistered construction contractors, advises the state Department of Labor & Industries.

"People are particularly vulnerable in times of emergency," said Kevin Morris, a manager in the department's contractor compliance program. "Believe it or not, some scam artists posing as contractors will take advantage of this opportunity to prey on homeowners."

State law requires contractors to register with L&I as a means of consumer protection. As a condition of registration, contractors must show they are bonded and insured. Unregistered contractors may not offer this protection, and the department's toll-free hotline staff hears frequently from consumers who have been ripped off by unscrupulous contractors.

The department offers these tips before hiring a construction contractor:

  • Try to get at least three written bids before signing a contract. If you sign a contract, make sure you understand its terms.
  • Ask for and check references.
  • Be wary of contractors who ask you to pick up the local building permit - a sign that they might not be registered and do not want to show their face at city hall or the county building department.
  • Make sure your prospective contractor is registered by calling the contractor registration hotline at 1-800-647-0982.

The department publishes a brochure, Before Hiring a Contractor, that is available at its local service locations and on the L&I Web site (www.lni.wa.gov). Information is also available from the state attorney generals' office of consumer protection at 1-800-551-4636.

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For media information, contact: 
L&I Public Affairs at 360-902-5400 or publicaffairs@lni.wa.gov

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