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Avoiding rip-offs: expert tips on hiring contractors

Hiring a contractor requires doing your homework.  As the FOX 17 Problem Solvers often find, many people don't know what to look for aside from price quote and reviews.

According to experts, checking for a contractor's license is the first step in the vetting process. That can be easily found on Michigan's LARA website.

"If homeowners actually look into whether their contractors are licensed, it has some level of comfort for them," said Eddie Holzem, the general manager of Leafguard, a gutter installation company. "Getting licensed in the state of Michigan requires a class: a 60-hour class prior to the test the you take."

Holzem says he shares his licensing information right away with customers and is the license holder for the company's West Michigan branch. He obtained his contractor's license as his predecessor left the company.

"It's like having a driver's license," said John Masterson with the Better Business Bureau. "I'm not going to get in the car if you don't have a driver's license. It's really important, because you need to make sure they're up to snuff with state regulations, as well as if there are any issues with the actual job that they do."

Other things to keep in mind when hiring a contractor:

  • Ask the company to provide references from previous customers.
  • Ask if the business is bonded. That way, if something goes wrong, there's money set aside for compensation.
  • Make sure the company is insured so you aren't on the hook for any on-site injuries.

"We encourage them to look at our liability insurance, and we actually will provide that to anybody who asks," said Holzem. "If they want to be named in it specifically, we can do that for them."

Whether it's a contractor or there's another issue you need help looking into, call the FOX 17 Problem Solvers at 616-447-5291. You can also send them an email: problemsolvers@fox17online.com.

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