Dealing with storm damage? Protect yourself from unqualified contractors

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TUMWATER – A week after a winter storm swept through much of Washington, downing trees and power lines, many homeowners are still cleaning up and repairing the damage.

Whether you’re hiring a tree removal service to clean up a downed tree or a general contractor to repair damage to your roof and gutter, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) reminds consumers that a little homework upfront can protect you against fraud, shoddy work or simply bad contractors.

In most cases, those hiring a contractor should plan their project and interview several contractors before settling on one. But when time is short, and you have a yard full of limbs or a damaged home, some basic steps can help protect you:

  • Whether you’re hiring a tree trimmer or general contractor, visit www.HiringAContractor.Lni.wa.gov to look up the contractor you are considering hiring and verify the company is registered. You can also check on the amount of insurance coverage the contractor has and how large a bond they carry.
  • Beware of contractors who ask to be paid in cash, to have a check made out to someone other than the business, who will work just weekends or who use high-pressure sales tactics. These are red flags and could be signs of a scam or an unregistered contractor.
  • Avoid paying a large deposit to a contractor or the entire cost of the job upfront, and be sure to get the required ‘notice to customer’ disclosure for any project that is more than $1,000.
  • If subcontractors are used or costly materials from suppliers, get lien releases from them. Before making final payment on the job, make sure subcontractors aren’t owed any money. Unpaid subcontractors can hold you responsible for their work by putting liens on your home.

The bottom line when hiring a contractor is to check with the state before it’s too late.

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Broadcast version: As homeowners clean up from last week's storm, the state Department of Labor & Industries reminds consumers to make sure contractors they hire, including tree removal companies, are registered with the state. Visit www dot Hiring A Contractor dot LNI dot wa dot gov to make sure the company or person you hire is properly registered, and has both a bond and insurance.

For media information: Hector.Castro@Lni.wa.gov, L&I, 360-902-6043.

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