Any homeowner who has hired a shady residential contractor knows the headaches all too well. Inferior work, property damage, promises made and under-delivered.

Looking to protect homeowners, Sen. Hans Zeiger (R-Puyallup) recently addressed the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee during a public hearing regarding Senate Bill 5795.

“We need new safeguards to protect homeowners and hold contractors accountable when they perform substandard work or damage a customer’s property,” Zeiger told the Committee. “This legislation will make a difference for homeowners across the state.”

Senate Bill 5795 would allow the Department of Labor and Industries to increase a contractor’s bond requirements by up to three times the normal amount if the applicant has had a judgment involving a single-family home. It also would task L&I with convening a work group to consider additional consumer safeguards.

According to Zeiger, he became involved in this issue after constituents in Puyallup’s Manorwood neighborhood hired a contractor to do work on their properties, only to reportedly find inferior work and damaged property. There was reportedly little the homeowners could do to recover their money from the contractor or recuperate the damage done to their properties.

But, according to experts, there are ways to make sure you don’t get into such situations in the first place.

“To avoid (such) a situation, homeowners should always proceed with caution,” said Master Builders Association of Pierce County Executive Officer Jeremiah Lafranca. “Go to L&I’s website, www.protectmyhome.net, and check to see if the contractor is registered in the State of Washington. Being registered in Washington requires that the contractor (1) purchase bond and liability insurance and (2) have a valid business license. This provides homeowners financial recourse if a job is poorly done or left unfinished, provides coverage for damages and gives you a known business to work with. Additionally, records will show if they’ve ever had a claim or legal action against them.”

Lafranca also offered an extra tip.

“An easy step homeowners can take is to verify if the contractor is a member of an accredited association, like the Master Builders Association of Pierce County or some other local Home Builders Association,” said Lafranca. “Our reputable builder members warn homeowners to stay clear of unregistered contractors, contractors asking for 100 percent money up front to order materials, and suppliers that offer to work for cash. MBA of Pierce County builder members are required to be registered with the State of Washington to maintain their membership with our association, thus providing consumers with added protection in doing business with our members.”

Scott Walker of Rush Residential, an MBA Pierce member and builder of the year added: “Sticker shock for repair and remodel is often the root cause of homeowners taking shortcuts to save money. If the repair work is poorly done, the home may be left in worse shape than it started. Homeowners could be left chasing financial ghosts having paid a contractor (or not a contractor) deposits for work they will never see.”