Checking if Your Contractor is Licensed in Washington State

Checking if Your Contractor is Licensed in Washington State

Construction projects are complicated and involve a wide array of decisions to be made by the property manager, and it can be hard to tell which decisions are high stakes and which are inconsequential.  Deciding whether to hire a licensed or unlicensed contractor is one of the most consequential decisions a property manager can make. The reason for this can be split into practical, legal,  and cost reasons.



Practically it makes more sense to hire a licensed contractor because then you can be sure that the person you are hiring is dedicated to their trade and have the experience necessary to be labeled an official contractor. This can’t always be guaranteed for contractors without licenses. 

Another practical benefit of licensed contractors is that they are able to get permits for larger construction projects and will know the process for making sure any construction is up to code. If you have something built only to find out it isn’t up to code, you could be fined. An official contractor can help to prevent that.



Officially licensed contractors have more legal protections than unlicensed contractors. Should something happen to a worker on your contractor’s team during a build, your homeowner’s insurance should cover it. Beyond that, if anyone gets hurt on your property, and you can prove that it has been well maintained and was built or repaired by an officially licensed contractor, you are immediately less liable.



Generally speaking, unlicensed contractors have lower up-front costs. This is because when you pay for a licensed contractor, you are paying for the time and money it took for them to become licensed. 

What you aren’t seeing when you look at a contractor’s up-front price is the potential cost of saving money early on. As mentioned in the previous sections, unlicensed contractors leave you on the hook for premises liabilities and permit infractions. Beyond those, you also risk the cost of needing to redo the construction if the original contractor failed to do a sufficient job. With a licensed contractor, you are able to sue when they break their contract, but you forfeit that ability when you hire an unlicensed contractor.


How to Confirm Your Contractor Has a Washington License

It’s clear that hiring a licensed contractor is the better choice, for both your wallet and your peace of mind. Now that you know that, you need to know how to ensure your contractor is licensed. There are multiple ways to do this:

Ask the Contractor

This is more of a good-faith move than an official way to check, as it can be easy to lie about this. One way to make this more reliable is by asking for their license or registration number, or their business license number. By providing one, they are making it easier for you to look them up.


Looking up your Contractor

Washington State Department of Labor & Industries has a search feature that allows anyone to look up licensed contractors by their name, license number, or UBI number. It also provides information on license infractions, revocations, and complaints.  This is the method we most highly recommend, as it gives the property manager the power to ensure that they are following state regulations by hiring a licensed contractor. 


If you have any questions about construction law, the attorneys at Templeton Horton Weibel & Broughton PLLC are the experts you’ve been looking for. We’re here to help you with any real estate and construction issues you may have, and we’re always just a call away.

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