Protect yourself from contractor scams


By Debby Abe

The last thing victims of a home remodeling scam may want to do is talk about it.

Perhaps they lost hundreds, even thousands of dollars intended for a dream remodeling project. They may be too embarrassed to tell anyone or don’t know there’s an agency that takes such reports.

Consumers can file reports with local police or sheriff’s departments. But if it has to do with a construction contractor or tradesperson, they should also file a complaint with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I).

L&I staff can explain the options that may be available to resolve any issue with the contractor. Depending on the situation, L&I may assign an inspector to the case. That could lead to civil infractions or criminal charges for the contractor.

Stepping forward may benefit not only the victim, but could prevent other consumers from getting ripped off by the same person.

Hire smart by hiring a registered contractor

Hiring a registered contractor is an important first step to protect homeowners. The state requires contractors to register with L&I. The department confirms that they have a business license, liability insurance and bond – requirements that give homeowners some monetary recourse if something goes wrong.

Unregistered contractors often have no bond or liability insurance, don’t get required building permits or fail to provide workers’ compensation insurance for their employees.

It’s a risky combination that leaves homeowners financially vulnerable if workers are injured on their property or the contractor does shoddy work – or takes a down payment and never shows up at all.

Take the time to do your homework before you hire a contractor. It could save you time and money later.

Hire smart to avoid home remodeling headaches

Take the following steps to ensure that your contractor is on the level:

Verify your prospective contractor’s registration at or call 800/647-0982.

Get at least three written bids.

Check contractor references.

Pay only as work is completed.

Report contracting fraud at or call 888/811-5974 and choose option 1.

Debby Abe is public affairs officer for the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries

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