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June 17, 1997

Penalties to increase for unregistered contractors

TUMWATER - Legislation effective July 27 increases five-fold the penalty for doing business as an unregistered contractor in Washington State.

The Legislature's revision to contractor registration law this year means a minimum fine of $1,000 for contractors caught doing business without registering with the Department of Labor & Industries. The current minimum fine is $200. Contractors are required to register with L&I as a means of consumer protection. While not a guarantee of craftsmanship, registration means a contractor is bonded and insured, and has met the requirements of operating as a legal business in the state. The law is intended to protect the public from unscrupulous contractors, many of whom are in business solely to defraud their customers.

Labor & Industries inspectors visit construction job sites to verify registration, and investigate consumer complaints concerning unregistered contractors. Under the revised law, a contractor failing to register is subject to a fine of $1,000 to $5,000. Also, the new law takes away L&I's authority to waive penalties if a contractor registers right away.

The legislation also orders L&I to audit and monitor a contractor for two years after receiving an infraction or if the contractor is convicted of being unregistered, then registers. The new law also makes the presumption that anyone who is in the contracting business is aware of state contractor registration laws.

Consumers can find out if their prospective contractor is registered by calling your local L&I service location, or the Contractor Registration Hotline weekdays at 1-800-647-0982.

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