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May 25, 2001

Building, remodeling season can bring out scam contractors

TUMWATER - During the busy spring and summer building season, many consumers are shopping around for contractors to build, remodel or do preventative maintenance on their homes.

One way to guard against hiring a scam contractor is to tap into the Department of Labor & Industries' contractor-registration database.

For consumer protection, state law requires contractors to be registered with L&I. While not a guarantee of performance, registration does mean the contractor has minimal liability insurance and a bond that can protect the consumer if there is a problem. Among other things, L&I's database will tell you if a contractor's registration is current and if dissatisfied customers have made claims against a contractor's bond.

"We know that fraudulent contractors become more active during the busy summer months when there is more construction activity," said Peter Schmidt, program chief for L&I's contractor-compliance program. "So this is a particularly important time of year for consumers to take precautionary steps to keep themselves from being victimized."

Check if a contractor is registered by using the Internet to access L&I's contractor database or by calling 1-800-647-0982. The free database is updated nightly. Users can look up a contractor by business name, owner's name, registration number, uniform business identifier or by city.

The department also publishes a brochure, Before Hiring a Contractor, which gives tips on selecting a contractor. The brochure is available at L&I's service locations around the state and or on our web site.

Information is also available from the Consumer Protection Division of the State Attorney General's Office at 1-800-551-4636.

To report contractor fraud, call 1-888-811-5974, or the Fraud web site.

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