Feb. 26, 2014
Remember L&I’s TV commercials featuring
contractor and cable TV personality Mike Holmes?
The ads first ran last spring, and now they’re running again. It’s the relaunch of our media campaign to drive traffic to ProtectMyHome.net, where homeowners can learn how to hire a registered contractor.
Holmes is a residential home improvement contractor in Canada. He’s had several cable TV shows, including Holmes on Homes, which also is broadcast in the United States. In that show, he repairs home improvement disasters caused by bad contractors. He regularly makes the top 3 in the annual Readers Digest poll of most-trusted Canadians.
Holmes donated his time last year to appear in a 30-second commercial for L&I. “It’s buyer beware when you hire a contractor to work on your home because there’s so many bad ones out there,” he says in part. “You need to hire smart. Ask to see their registration, check their references and never, ever pay in full until the job is done.”
The ads will air for several days at a time around the state through mid-April. For instance, ads are running on regular broadcast TV channels in the Tri-Cities through mid-March and on Comcast cable TV channels in the Puget Sound region through Feb. 23.
Besides the Holmes’ spot, you might also see what’s called a “taggable.” That’s a 10-second ad that’s tagged onto the end of a longer commercial for shows like “Love It or List It” or “Holmes Inspection.” These shorter ads show the ProtectMyHome.net icon as an announcer urges viewers to go to the website before hiring a contractor.
Can’t wait to see the Holmes’ ad on TV? Watch it at ProtectMyHome.net.
Feb. 4, 2014
TUMWATER — An asphalt paver who went door to door in Snohomish County offering customers “a really good deal” now faces upset homeowners and criminal charges of failing to register as a contractor.
The Washington Attorney General has charged Michael Eugene Sparrow, 50, with eight counts of unregistered contracting. Sparrow also faces one count of doing business without workers’ compensation insurance and three felony charges of false reporting by an employer.
Sparrow, whose last known address was in Marysville, is scheduled to appear on the charges on Feb. 5 in Snohomish County Superior Court.
The case results from a Department of Labor & Industries investigation that found more than eight homeowners hired Sparrow to grade or pave their driveways in 2012 in Marysville and Stanwood, according to charging papers. Most of the victims were senior citizens on fixed incomes, investigators said.
Sparrow approached most of the homeowners at their homes, saying he could give them a good deal because he already had paving materials on his truck from another job. Despite the promise of a bargain, however, several homeowners said Sparrow charged them far more than his original price quote.
A Stanwood property owner, for instance, said Sparrow offered to grade and spread gravel on his driveway for $750, then demanded $2,300 once his crew finished the job, charging papers said. The homeowner told an L&I investigator that he paid the higher price to avoid a confrontation, then noticed the driveway hadn’t been graded.
In another case, a Marysville property owner who paid Sparrow $2,700 in full said the paver started the job, but never finished it, charging papers said.
L&I records show Sparrow was registered as a contractor in 1996, but that his registration expired in August 1999. State law requires construction contractors to register with L&I, and keep their registration current. If they employ workers, they must properly report their work hours and pay for workers’ compensation insurance.
"Checking to see if a contractor is registered should be at the top of the to-do list for consumers," said Elizabeth Smith, L&I assistant director for Fraud Prevention and Labor Standards. "Unregistered contractors typically have no liability insurance, no bond, and pay no taxes, leaving consumers little recourse if there’s a problem."
People can check to see if a contractor is registered at www.ProtectMyHome.net or call L&I at 800-647-0982.
Jan. 24, 2014
It’s a safe bet that unregistered contractors wish L&I’s Jesse Jameson would stay home on Sundays.
On a recent Sunday morning, the Tukwila-based construction compliance inspector checked out a tip that a contractor with a suspended license was building a house in Kent. Jesse’s personal initiative — and an exceptionally strong tip — led to the discovery of four unregistered contractors.
At the jobsite that Sunday, Jesse found a contractor applying stucco to the building exterior and a worker tiling a bathroom floor.
Through additional interviews, research and three more visits to the site, Jesse determined the stucco contractor, the tiling contractor who employed the tiler, the project’s roofing contractor and the project’s general contractor were all operating with suspended contractor licenses.
The case was a perfect example of L&I’s efforts to help honest workers and businesses by cracking down on the dishonest ones.
Tipster is “blown away”
The tipster, Donald Vose, was thrilled when Jesse told him the investigation results.
"I was thankful someone even went out to a job site," said Vose, owner of Legends Roofing Co. "To have the guy (Jesse) call you and say he actually went out a Sunday, I was absolutely blown away. As an employer in the state of Washington, I was extremely impressed."
Vose initially found out about the general contractor’s status the hard way: The contractor wrote Legends a bad check for one job, then skipped out on paying the firm for roofing supplies on the Kent job. He emailed Jesse’s supervisor, Scott Nielsen, with information that the contractor was still working at the Kent site.
Jesse, who had been out of town on Friday, learned about Vose’s tip when he got back to town Saturday. Nielsen had left him a voicemail and forwarded him Vose’s email.
Believing in L&I’s mission
Jesse says he occasionally works evenings and weekends when he thinks there’s a good chance of catching violators. After getting the tip, he decided to go to the construction site the next day, even though it was a Sunday.
"I believe in what we do," Jesse said. "I think that sometimes we’ve got to do something like that to do a good job."
After Jesse visited the job site, Vose said his company took the unregistered contractor to court and recently recovered all the money it was owed, plus collection fees. “Justice was served,” Vose wrote in an email. “Thanks to all the hard-working L&I employees.”
Jesse started working as an L&I construction compliance inspector in December 2004. A former electrical contractor, he has many friends who are contractors, and he believes in our goal of helping honest workers and businesses by cracking down on the dishonest ones.
"I think about all the people trying to do business legitimately in the state and feed their families," Jesse said. "Part of what hurts them is folks without licenses who continue to operate—That’s what motivates me."
Dec. 23, 2013
A 41-year-old Bremerton man faces 25 felony charges alleging he faked on-the-job injuries to fool hospitals and clinics into prescribing him narcotics.
Robert B. Boyer, Jr., is accused of visiting more than three dozen emergency rooms and urgent-care clinics throughout Western Washington to get prescriptions for Vicodin, Percocet and other painkillers, according to charges filed recently by the Washington Attorney General’s Office.
Boyer pretended to be an ironworker when he showed up with visible cuts and other injuries that he said he suffered in construction accidents from November 2012 through February 2013, charging papers said. An L&I investigation found Boyer filed 51 workers’ compensation claims.
Boyer faces 15 counts in Pierce County and 10 counts in King County of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud. Read the full News Release on L&I’s website.
Dec. 10, 2013
Scores of businesses are contacting the Department of Labor & Industries to report they have received an official-looking letter that implies they must buy required workplace posters or face fines.
L&I did not send the letters, but wants to remind companies that the workplace posters are available for free.
The mass mailing has confused many business owners, who assume it’s from L&I. The letters say “final notice,” are addressed to individual businesses, and include a payment stub to purchase the posters for $295.
It’s true that the state and federal governments require certain posters be placed at job sites. While private vendors may sell the posters, the government provides the posters at no cost.
“Our staff has received lots of calls regarding what appears to be a bill for government posters,” said Anne Foote-Soiza, Assistant Director of L&I’s Division of Occupational Health and Safety. “L&I wants everyone to understand these posters are free for the asking. Please let other business owners know about it, too.”
The free state-required posters are available from any L&I office or by calling 1-866-219-7321 or downloading from the L&I website at posters.Lni.wa.gov.