Robert Zollna | Independent
                                Ryan Kurts, who rents a home on Southeast Serenade Way damaged by the Port Orchard tornado Dec. 18, says a tree contractor failed to finish a job cutting massive tree trunks and limbs into manageable pieces. Kurts said the man was paid $2,180 to do the work.

Robert Zollna | Independent Ryan Kurts, who rents a home on Southeast Serenade Way damaged by the Port Orchard tornado Dec. 18, says a tree contractor failed to finish a job cutting massive tree trunks and limbs into manageable pieces. Kurts said the man was paid $2,180 to do the work.

Make sure contractors are licensed before you sign contract

Due diligence is critical before hiring a contractor to clean up tornado damage

PORT ORCHARD — When Ryan Kurts and his landlord contracted with a Pierce County tree clearing contractor to lop off and cut fallen trees on their Serenade Drive property after the Tuesday tornado made it a disaster zone of sorts, they were dismayed with the contractor’s final product.

After shelling out $2,180 to the contractor, he reportedly left the scene with the job only partially completed. A huge tree trunk sat next to Kurts’ dented trailer (he said it was damaged when one of the tree branches struck it as the contractor was maneuvering the tree). An attempt had been made by the hired hand to chainsaw the massive tree section, but it remained there — still in one piece — after the contractor apparently left because he didn’t have the necessary tools to carry out the work.

But Kurts’s next-door neighbor Katie Schroedle, shared some good news, courtesy of another tree service contractor. Schroedle, who was without power after the tornado, had borrowed a power generator from a Tacoma-based contractor, Maple Wood Tree Service, to get her by until power was restored.

But in a kind gesture befitting the holidays, the contractor presented her with a gift on Christmas Eve: a new gas power generator.

The contractor proved that the bad actors in the business — a minority — spoil the reputation of the majority of reputable business people. Still, it’s nonetheless in a homeowner’s best interests to conduct due diligence anytime when looking to hire someone to do work you can’t do, especially in an emergency situation.

Rob Putaansuu, Port Orchard’s mayor, reminded area residents that even though time is of the essence in getting their homes repaired and buttoned down to protect it from the weather, it’s crucial that they feel comfortable with who they’re entrusting repairs to, which can cost thousands of dollars.

“My advice to anyone in any situation would be to make sure you’re dealing with licensed and bonded contractors and reputable people,” Putaansuu said.

“These are challenging times and you need to get the work done as quickly as possible, of course, but you still need to take the proper steps.”

Tim Church, public affairs manager with the Washington State Labor and Industries Department, said general contractors in this state are required to be licensed, bonded and registered with the state.

“Homeowners should verify the contractor they’re considering has the proper credentials,” Church said.

He said Labor & Industries, or L&I, has a page on its website (www.lni.wa.gov) where citizens can verify details about any contractor in question. The web page confirms whether a contractor or tradesperson has an active license, is certified or has a record of safety citations or lawsuits.

“If someone walks up with just a business card and says they’re a contractor, I’d be really skeptical of that,” Church said. “We do not want people to be taken advantage of in a time of desperation.”

Ryan Kurts contracted with a Graham tree removal contractor for $2,180 to cut down broken tree trunks and limbs on his property into manageable pieces. Kurts, however, said the contractor failed to finish the job and left a huge tree trunk uncut. (Robert Zollna | Kitsap Daily News)

Ryan Kurts contracted with a Graham tree removal contractor for $2,180 to cut down broken tree trunks and limbs on his property into manageable pieces. Kurts, however, said the contractor failed to finish the job and left a huge tree trunk uncut. (Robert Zollna | Kitsap Daily News)

Residents who suffered damage from the Dec. 18 tornado are advised to carefully check the credentials of individuals who claim to be licensed and bonded contractors capable of performing repair and cleanup duties to homes and businesses. (Robert Zollna | Kitsap Daily News)

Residents who suffered damage from the Dec. 18 tornado are advised to carefully check the credentials of individuals who claim to be licensed and bonded contractors capable of performing repair and cleanup duties to homes and businesses. (Robert Zollna | Kitsap Daily News)

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