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May 7, 2002

Help protect yourself: Hire only registered contractors


TUMWATER - Thinking of hiring a contractor during the spring and summer construction and remodeling season? The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) advises you to protect yourself by hiring only registered contractors and by following a few common-sense rules.

While not a guarantee of performance, registration means a contractor has liability insurance and bonding, as required by law. In 2001, the Legislature increased the amount of insurance and bonding coverage contractors are required to carry, giving consumers (and subcontractors) additional safeguards in the event of problems.

Homeowners can find out if contractors are registered by visiting L&I's contractor-registration Web site at www.LNI.wa.gov/contractors/contractor.asp. The database found there will tell you, among other things, if a contractor's registration is current and if dissatisfied customers have made claims against a contractor's bond. This information is also available by calling 1-800-647-0982.

L&I also publishes a brochure, Hiring a Contractor - What You Should Know, with tips on selecting a contractor if you are planning to build, remodel or do preventive maintenance on your home. Among its suggestions:

  • Try to interview several qualified contractors and solicit written bids. Bids that are significantly lower than all others should be questioned.

  • Be wary of contractors who ask you to pick up the building permit. In most instances, the contractor is required to take out the permits.

  • When advancing money for materials, it may be possible to make checks payable to both the contractor and the supply house. Be very cautious about paying for work not yet completed.

  • Put all change orders in writing. Ask questions as work progresses. If you do not like an answer or don't understand it, stop the work until you do.

The brochure, with many other tips and a more detailed explanation of laws and regulations, is available at L&I's service locations around the state or on the Internet.

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