GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As the temps start warming up more people will be looking for contractors to fix up their properties.
From major renovations to quick home improvements, there’s a lot for homeowners to consider.
That’s why Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel came out with tips and information so you don’t become the victim of a scam.
They're very important tips as we get more than 100 emails a week asking for help. Sometimes, people don't do all their homework or really know how to protect themselves.
We get dozens of emails a week asking for help. People writing in saying they’ve paid for services they’re not receiving or shelled out thousands of dollars for jobs that remain unfinished.
The biggest tip is to make sure your contractor is licensed.
“Anything that involves the destruction of something or the building up of something, any structural changes to a building is probably going to require a license,” said Troy Baker, Educational Foundation Director for the Better Business Bureau.
The BBB watches out for people by providing ratings on companies as well as customer reviews. It helps them find businesses, brands and charities they can trust.
Baker says don’t just take a contractor’s word for something. You have to do some digging on your own.
“So, if you want to know if a business is licensed and you see they are accredited, we have already verified that they are licensed because being appropriately licensed is a requirement to being accredited with the Better Business Bureau,” said Baker.
Whatever your project is, do a quick Google search about it and put in, “Michigan” and “does this need a license?” If the entire project including parts and labor is under $600, Baker says, it may not require one.
If you’re hiring someone for a job, deal with local businesses and make sure you check their credentials.
Don’t fully pay in advance or with cash and deposits should not be more than 1/3 of the total project cost.
If you have work crews showing up that you don’t know, write down vehicle descriptions with plate numbers. That way if you’re scammed, you can have the information to contact police and warn family and friends.
You can also get a hold of Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
“Look up their record, look up their background, find out what you can about them before you bring them into your home,” said Baker. “BBB.org is a great place to do that. You can find out what reviews they have, what kinda complaints they have, if they have any, and how they respond to those complaints.”
No matter the scope of the work, get things in writing as contracts are legally binding documents.
Make sure it includes the contractor’s information, their address, phone number and license number.
A list of dates when the project will start and finish is good to include on the contract along with a breakdown of costs and when your payments are due.
Have the contractor write down a list of materials that will be used along with the brand, model, size, color and pattern.
Review the cancellation terms if you’re not happy with the product.
If the contractor asks you to pull the permits, it’s a red flag.
Make sure you’re also comfortable dealing with the company or person you’re paying.
“So, when you’re interviewing people, when you’re looking for that contractor, that plumber, that company that’s going to come into your home – before you sign anything – make sure you’re comfortable with them and you’re happy with the choice you’re going to make,” Baker says. “That research on the front side will save you a lot of problems on the back.”
Some warning signs of scams include high-pressure sales tactics, if people randomly show up at your door, and when contractors ask you to make urgent decisions like ‘right now’.
“They’re trying to pressure you on the spot and that’s a pressure that you really don’t need and one that leads a lot of people into trouble,” says Baker.
Baker tells us if you’re looking at online reviews, especially Google and Facebook, be a little skeptical. You never know if the contractor’s family or friends are writing them without even getting work done.
Also, look at several review sites not just one.
If you’ve done your homework and still have an issue, you can file a written complaint:
Number of complaints actually filed with the AG's office between 2020 and 2021:
Residential Building Construction - 203
Roofing - 64
Special Trades - 59
Painting, paper hanging - 27
Window & glasswork - 45