State Cautions Flood Victims to Protect Against Scammers

If you are among those in Michigan’s Great Southwest who will need to make extensive repairs or even rebuild following the recent flood waters in our region, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs cautions you to protect yourself against potential scam artists working to take advantage of you in a stressful time.

LARA says consumers tackling home restorations after flooding are urged to check the license status of contracted individuals and businesses online on their website. There are several links below to help you do that.

LARA’s online resources provide you with current information on the status of a contractor’s license and a historical record of the licensee.

Residential Builders and Maintenance and Alteration Contractors are licensed by the Bureau of Professional Licensing. Search those occupational licensed contractors by visiting the link below or by calling 517-373-8068.

https://www.lara.michigan.gov/colaLicVerify/lName.jsp

You can also click the next link to view actions taken by LARA against residential builders.

https://www.michigan.gov/lara/0,4601,7-154-72600_72602_72731_72862-365040–,00.html

Electricians, plumbers and mechanical contractors are licensed by the Bureau of Construction Codes. You can verify their license by visiting this next link, or by calling 517-241-9316.

https://aca3.accela.com/lara/

Consumers are also reminded to:

  • Ask the individual to show you his/her “pocket card,” which will contain the license number.
  • Ask for and verify references.
  • Get at least three written estimates to include detailed job specifications on the materials, labor, timeline, and total charges for the work. Don’t automatically choose the lowest bidder.
  • Obtain a detailed written contract stating exactly what work will be done, the quality of the materials used, warranties, start and completion dates, total cost of the job, and a payment schedule.
  • Never sign a contract with blank spaces. Know your cancellation rights.
  • Protect yourself by asking the contractor, subcontractor, and suppliers for a completed and signed “waiver of lien” form. This may provide you additional protection should a subcontractor or material supplier place a lien on your home if the contractor doesn’t pay the bills. This can happen even if you paid the contract in full.
  • Make sure your contractor is insured and carries personal liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage. Ask for copies of current insurance certificates. If the contractor is not properly insured, you could be held liable for any injuries and damages that occur during the project.
  • Check with your property insurance provider for the extent of your coverage.
  • Avoid paying for the entire job upfront. Consider paying one-third in advance; one-third halfway through the job and the final payment upon satisfactory completion. Avoid paying with cash. Pay by check or credit card and get a receipt.
  • Keep good records—copies of the contract, change orders, and correspondence.
  • Don’t forget your permit—if needed—by checking with your local or state building department. The proper permits and inspections help to guard against defective work or costly mistakes. If homeowners plan on doing the work themselves, they are also responsible for obtaining building permits.