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State fines contractor after neighborhood complaints

Some residents of a Puyallup neighborhood are angry with a state’s small fine for a contractor who they say damaged their homes.

Brenda Bauer can’t understand why the state didn’t hammer her contractor, Five Star General Contractor, financially for busting up her patio, then pouring new concrete over old bricks and one of the steps of their deck.

“They get the money and we’re all out and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Bauer said.  “Poor quality means… nothing.  It means nothing.  You’re just out the money you just spent.”

Bauer spent $22,000 for that job.   In fact, Five Star General Contractor and its owner, Nasili Liu, performed over $100,000 dollars worth of work in Puyallup’s Manorwood neighborhood last summer.  At least ten homeowners filed insurance claims.

Residents called the state to investigate. All the state could do was fine the company $2500 for a technicality on the contract,s and $925 for workman’s compensation issues.

“{It’s a} slap on the wrist,” Bauer said.  “{It} makes no sense.”

The state can’t fine a contractor for the quality of their work. The state-required $12,000 could be split among all of the residents.

Chris Bowe is the Assistant Director for Fraud Prevention and Labor Standards with Labor and Industries.  All he could do was look into the workman’s compensation claims and fine the company $925.

“We could have assessed a greater penalty, {but} this was our first encounter with this employer in regards of being an unregistered employer,” Bowe explained.

For being an unregistered employer, the state came down hard.  It hit 5 Star General Contractor with an audit estimate of $17,000 for premiums that should have been paid, $3500 in late fee penalties, and $1700 in interest.

“We can’t calculate on the tax side, then penalize to the level of the harm to a consumer,” Bowe said.

The attorney for the contractor said the leniency has to do with him being forthright with Labor and Industries.

“The more cooperative you are, they are willing to look at what you have done as a mistake and as an oversight and not penalize you as heavily,” William Wright said.

Some of the residents were able to reach settlements with 5 Star General Contractor’s insurance company.  But not everyone who faces this situation with a contractor will be that fortunate.

“The system hugely needs to change,” Bauer said.

Part of the fallout in this case is that there is now discussion in the legislature about raising bond requirements.

See Jesse’s original report here.

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