Home Improvement Scams
||Harriet noticed a leak in her living room ceiling and called a plumber. The plumber told her that all her bathroom pipes were broken and needed to be replaced, at a cost of $1,500. He said she risked an electrical fire if she didn't have the work done. She sought a second opinion. The other plumber found that the problem was only some failed caulking around the bathtub.
Home repair fraud is often aimed at senior citizens. Unscrupulous repair persons sometimes use scare tactics to pressure people to have unnecessary, expensive repairs made. They overcharge for shoddy work, or take money and then never show up to do the work.
One of the most common kinds of home repair fraud involves offers from transient work crews. Strangers knock on your door and say they've been working in your neighborhood and have some extra material left. They offer to seal your driveway or fix your roof for a discount, but they take your money and then disappear.
Another scam involves strangers who knock on your door and offer to do a free inspection of your furnace, chimney, or drinking water. Once inside, they pretend to find a serious health or safety problem requiring expensive repairs. Even worse, they may only be trying to get inside your home to steal money or valuables from you.
Be cautious when they demand cash payment or indicate the offer is only good for that day. Don't let yourself be pressured.
It's best to say no thanks to these unsolicited offers, and to not open your door to strangers. Instead, get recommendations for home improvement companies from satisfied friends and neighbors.
- Shop around for a contractor, getting price estimates from several. When requesting an estimate, ask if there is a charge. A smart shopper would also get two or more references on each contractor.
- Get references to see if the work was done properly, on schedule and at the agreed price.
- Insist on a detailed contract. The contract should include: a specific description of the work to be done, materials, labor cost, timetable, payment schedule, start/ending completion dates, names of subcontractors, warranty agreements, and clean up and financing arrangements.
- Check to see if the contractor has been disciplined or if the license has been suspended or revoked. Builders and contractors are licensed by the Licensing Division of the Bureau of Commercial Services, Michigan Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs. You may visit the Licensing Division's website, at www.michigan.gov/lara , and click on the links for "Commercial Services & Corporations" and then "Licensing Services." You can also reach the Licensing Division at 1-517-241-9288.
The Bureau's home page for Residential Builders, Maintenance and Alteration Contractors provides general information on issues relating to builders' licenses, including additional tips for consumers.
Consumers may visit the Bureau of Commercial Services' website to verify current license status and check for prior disciplinary action. If possible, use the builder's license number as well as the name of the builder and the business name.
Decisions issued in response to formal complaints are also accessible online.
If you would like to file a complaint against a builder, or check to see if there are complaints about a specific builder, you may also call the Licensing Services Division at 1-517-241-9288 or write to:
Bureau of Commercial Services
P.O. Box 30018
Lansing , MI 48909
Always check a home improvement contractor's license and complaint history by calling the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, at 1-877-765-8388, and the Bureau of Commercial Services, at 1-517- 373-8376.