Shoreline, WA — This home was a costly unfinished contracting disaster.
“He cut a bunch of beams without replacing them,” says the owner of that home, Thorsten Knatz.
The job was supposed to add an extra bedroom and remodel the kitchen.
“So the roof was collapsing, you could see with your eye that it came down,” says Thorsten.
In 2018, Thorsten sued the contractor responsible for this mess: Refined Construction Services, LLC out of Mukilteo.
“We got a judgment for the $50,000 they ran away with and the $70,000 in damage,” says Thorsten.
Refined Construction Services was owned by Aaron Stasiak. But two months before the judgment, his wife, Barbara, filed an application to become a contractor. She named it Refined Construction, LLC.
And now Thorsten believes there’s little chance he’ll ever get paid.
“There is a saying in Germany: ‘you can’t grab a naked man into his pockets.’ That’s what’s happening here, because there’s nothing to grab,” says Thorsten.
The second company was taking jobs in Seattle and Bellevue. But there’s a problem. I obtained Barabra’s state contractor’s application. It asks:
“Have you, your spouse, principal owner or registered domestic partner ever been previously registered as a contractor in Washington?”
Her answer to that question was no.
“And we rely on people to fill out those applications truthfully and completely and sometimes people overlook those things,” says Chris Bowe, assistant director of fraud prevention and labor standards at our state’s Department of Labor and Industries.
Bowe says Barbara not only failed to disclose that her husband was a contractor, she also didn’t reveal that there was a judgment against the company her husband had.
“And we want consumers to be protected to ensure that people who have harmed consumers in the past, or have civil judgments or taxes that they are being responsible before we allow them to register again,” says Bowe.
I brought this case to State Representative Tina Orwall of Des Moines. She’s on a legislative task force focused on improving construction laws.
“Our state has very little consumer protection for homeowners who are harmed by a contractor,” says Representative Orwall. “We really need to take more actions in this area.”
Here’s an issue: the Labor and Industries website lists judgments and lawsuits against contractors. But the state is getting that information from consumers who report it - not the courts.
In fact, there’s no system for L&I to check court records when contractors apply for registration.
“I know we’ve talked about, early on in the application process, that we really should have a good review of people that come in seeking registration,” says Representative Orwall.
We called the Stasiak’s and went to their home to get their side of the story. We didn’t hear back.
As a result of our investigation, Labor and Industries shut down Refined Construction, LLC. Investigators also hit them with violations for unregistered contracting, and:
“We issued a second infraction to her for falsification of an application and that carries a $2,000 civil penalty,” says Chris Bowe, with Labor and Industries.
More than $100,000 later - and even more spent on a new contractor - Thorsten’s remodel looks great. But any new laws resulting from his financial losses…
“You don’t get a cent back of that $50,000. That’s gone, it’s completely gone,” says Thorsten. “Our lawyer said you could try but it’s a worthless effort.”
… are just a little too late.