In their first surprise sweep of 2013, construction compliance inspectors with the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) checked 125 contractors on 89 job sites in the Kennewick area, citing nine contractors for either lacking a state registration or not being registered for the work they were actually doing. The infraction carries a $1,000 fine for a first-time offense.
“Checking jobsites on nights and weekends and working with consumers and businesses to get tips are two important ways we can find and stop firms that are cheating on taxes and scamming consumers,” said Elizabeth Smith, who directs L&I’s Fraud Prevention and Labor Standards Division.
The L&I inspectors also referred eight contractors to L&I’s audit division to check for unpaid workers’ comp premiums. And they referred four other contractors who owed L&I a total of $114,000 to the agency’s collections program.
“Property owners who hire unregistered contractors are completely unprotected when things go wrong with the project,” said Smith. “Unregistered contractors typically have no liability insurance, no bond, and pay no taxes or workers’ comp. “They’re also unfairly competing for business with reputable contractors who play by the rules.”
Smith said that after this sweep, the L&I inspectors said they encountered many licensed contractors who said they really appreciated the weekend sweep.
Last week’s sweep is the just the first of many unannounced construction compliance inspections this year by L&I. Construction compliance program manager Dean Simpson said L&I has increased staffing and inspections in the past year and a half, with the welcome support of builder groups.
L&I’s contractor compliance program has 21 inspectors around the state, and each inspector issues about seven citations a month. Working from tips and random site visits, the inspectors make sure contractors are properly registered, whether the person is a painter, tree trimmer, carpenter, concrete worker, fence installer or a handyman.
Working as a contractor without registration, even advertising to do so, can result in a minimum $1,000 penalty for a first offense. Penalties climb with each resulting citation.
Consumers and others can check www.ProtectMyHome.net to verify contractor registrations.
Source: Washington Department of Labor & Industries
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