Beware of contractor scams when rebuilding from wildfire damage
TUMWATER — Disasters like our state's recent wildfires often bring out scam artists itching to make a buck from homeowners desperate to quickly rebuild or repair their homes.
That's why the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is urging people recovering from the devastating fires to be sure to hire contractors registered with the department.
L&I requires construction contractors to be registered and have liability insurance, a business license, and a bond to provide some financial protection if something goes wrong with the project.
It's easy to verify contractor registration at ProtectMyHome or by calling L&I at 1-800-647-0982 and pressing 2.
Check out contractors before hiring
"As tempting as it is to go with the first person you find, it's crucial to check their background before you hire a contractor," said Melissa McBride, L&I's chief of contractor compliance.
"Sadly, far too many homeowners who've been cheated by unregistered contractors tell us they wish they would have checked first to see if they were registered with L&I."
One frequent scam is for fast-talking "contractors" to show up uninvited at a homeowner's house, and offer to do work. They take a deposit, do a shoddy job, or partial work before raising their previously quoted price. Sometimes, they just take the money and run.
You can read about other common contracting scams and more in L&I's online guide to hiring a contractor.
Get three written bids and a well-written contract
State law requires contractors be registered not only to construct and repair buildings, but to demolish and remove burned-out structures, repair fences, install landscaping, and any other work that "adds to or subtracts from real estate."
Besides verifying contractors are registered, homeowners should also:
- Get three written bids.
- Check contractors' referrals and online reputation.
- Get a well-written contract.
- Never pay in full until the job is done.
Disaster resources for do-it-yourselfers, business owners, workers
Are you a wildfire survivor tackling an electrical repair yourself? Or a business owner having trouble paying your workers' compensation insurance premiums because of the wildfires?
There's a list of resources to help home and business owners, employers, and workers recover from natural disasters at Lni.wa.gov/DisasterResources.
Report contractor fraud
L&I enforces the state's construction contractor registration laws, which are meant to protect consumers and level the playing field for legitimate businesses. Report a fraudulent or unregistered contractor at Lni.wa.gov/ReportAContractor or call 1-888-811-5974.