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Study shows using casual laborers costs homeowners in long run

Many Washington homeowners put themselves at risk by hiring casual laborers

December 12, 2006

SEATTLE – Of those Washingtonians who hire third parties for repairs around their home, one in 10 will hire an unlicensed contractor, with two-thirds believing it will save them money. But according to Seattle-based PEMCO Insurance, a penny saved is not always a penny earned.

"The tragedy of hiring a casual laborer is that it can cost homeowners hundreds of times the money they saved, and worse, it can jeopardize their safety," said Jon Osterberg, spokesperson for PEMCO Insurance.

Such was the case for one PEMCO policyholder in Kent who hired an unqualified contractor to build a lean-to carport onto his house. The builder used materials that were too heavy and attached the carport only to the home's siding, not into the studs. The carport collapsed and crushed the homeowner's expensive motorhome.

"The sad part of the story is that PEMCO had to reject the insurance claim after an engineer determined the carport was improperly built," Osterberg said.

According to PEMCO's Northwest Insurance Poll, of those who hire third parties for home repairs, painting, and upgrades, one in 10 Washingtonians will hire a worker who is not licensed or bonded.

These workers might not have current knowledge of building codes and can put your family in danger if the work is not done right, added Osterberg.

"It only takes a few minutes for a homeowner to verify if a contractor is licensed and bonded," said Osterberg. "It takes much longer to repair shoddy work."

Homeowners wanting to check the credentials of a contractor can visit Washington state's Labor and Industries Web site at http://www.lni.wa.gov/TradesLicensing/Contractors/.

Many other homeowners attempt to save money by doing home repair and remodel work themselves, PEMCO's poll showed.

"When homeowners look to save a buck, they often don't realize the project they thought was easy requires expertise," said Osterberg. "It's usually more expensive to fix work done improperly than to pay to have it done right the first time."

One such example happened to a Spanaway man, who attempted to do his own wiring rather than hire a licensed electrician.

The homeowner made a series of mistakes, including connecting aluminum and copper wires of different gauges directly together without using a junction box. The wiring overheated and sparked a fire, and a state inspector ordered that the entire house be rewired. It cost nearly $20,000 to correct.

"If the homeowner hired a licensed electrician, he could have saved a huge amount of time, money, and frustration," said Osterberg. "Not to mention the danger he put his family in while they lived in an unsafe house."

According to Osterberg, homeowners should always hire a licensed and bonded contractor whenever the work involves a permit, codes, or has other regulatory restrictions.

"If you're not sure what you're doing, it's always best to seek the help of an expert who can tell you whether or not the work is suitable for a do-it-yourselfer," said Osterberg.

Homeowners who want to compare their responses with the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll can visit poll.pemco.com.

About the Poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned the independent, statewide survey that asked Washington homeowners several questions about home maintenance and other issues.

Informa Research Services Inc. of Seattle conducted the poll. The sample size, 606 respondents, yields an accuracy of +/- 4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data in this survey will not vary by more than +/- 4 percent.

About PEMCO Insurance
PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, life, and umbrella insurance to Washington state residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold by community agents throughout the state and through PEMCO offices.

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©2014, PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company, Seattle, WA