Homeowners should check contractors before hiring for storm cleanup

January 31, 2012

By Staff

The state Department of Labor & Industries reminded residents to check contractors’ credentials, as residents seek help to clean up from recent winter weather.

Whether the job requires residents to hire a tree-removal service to clean up a downed tree or a general contractor to repair damage to a roof and gutter, the agency said a little homework upfront can protect consumers against fraud, shoddy work or, simply, bad contractors.

In most cases, residents hiring a contractor should plan the project and interview several contractors before making a decision. But, if time is short, and the project is a yard full of limbs or a damaged home, some basic steps can help protect consumers:

  • Check contractors on www.hiringacontractor.lni.wa.gov to verify if the company is registered. Consumers can also check on the amount of insurance coverage the contractor has and how large a bond the company carries.
  • Beware if contractors ask to be paid in cash, to have a check made out to someone other than the business, want to work only weekends or use high-pressure sales tactics. Such red flags could be signs of a scam.
  • 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 of more than $1,000.
  • If the contractor uses subcontractors or costly materials from suppliers, get lien releases from the contractor. Before making final payment on the job, make sure a subcontractor is not owed any money. Unpaid subcontractors can hold the consumer responsible for work by putting liens on his or her home.
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