Michigan ice storm victims should beware of shady contractors, BBB offers consumer tips

Michigan Ice Storm

Michiganders looking for help as they recover from ice storms should be aware of businesses trying to take advantage of them.
Tens of thousands of people remained without power last year in Michigan, and many homeowners are dealing with damage from fallen tree branches, failed sump pumps and other weather-related problems.

The Better Business Bureau in Western Michigan is warning consumers of “storm chasers,” who show up in weather-damaged areas to make a quick buck.

“It is not uncommon for out-of-town storm chasers, and unqualified local tree cutters and home repair contractors to solicit business after ice damage like this,” Phil Catlett, president of Better Business Bureau serving Western Michigan, said in a statement. “Storm chasers may not have proper licensing and may offer quick fixes or make big promises which they won’t deliver.”

In other parts of the country, storm chasers have paid local construction companies in order to use their business name and attract customers. After the contractor leaves, the local companies may have to deal with customers who are frustrated with bad workmanship and unfulfilled warranties, according to the BBB.

The BBB offered several tips for storm victims:

• Don’t feel pressured into hiring a contractor on the spot. Do your homework first. Look up contractors and businesses on the WesternMichiganBBB.org to see reviews and complaints or call the BBB at 616-774-8236.

• Check online to see if a contractor is licensed or registered to do business in the state of Michigan. Tree service companies do not require a special license, but anyone working on a home needs a residential builder’s or maintenance and alteration contractor’s license.

• Make sure the contractor has both property and liability insurance.

• It’s best to get at least three or four quotes from contractors.

• Get a written contract that specifies the price, project time frame and amount of liability insurance coverage the contractor holds.

• Don’t pay in advance, and make payments to the company, not an individual. Be wary of contractors who demand full or half of the payment upfront. If you pay by credit card you may have extra protection in case of an issue.

• See if the contractor’s vehicle has business logos or a Michigan license plate.

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