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Builders say homeowners should be wary of scam contractors

A photo of a house with white siding with a large tree through the roof.   The house was severely damaged by the Portage tornado that touched down on May 7.  In the foreground you can see a large broken tree trunk with sharp edges that looks like it was snapped in two like you might snap a pencil in half.
Leona Larson
This house in Portage was severely damaged by a tornado that touched down on May 7, 2024.

Last week's tornado damaged hundreds of houses, which can leave homeowners vulnerable to fraud.

The Home Builders Association is warning residents with homes damaged by last week’s tornado to watch out for scam contractors.  

The extreme weather left hundreds of homes in need of repair in Kalamazoo County, leaving homeowners vulnerable to inexperienced contractors or builders who might never show up after getting paid. CEO of the Homebuilders Association of Western Michigan said homeowners should verify that a contractor is legitimate, and should also avoid putting down a large deposit.

“In a lot of those cases, if you pay, they won’t show up,” said Hovestadt. “You want to make sure that you have a written contract, and we advise to not pay cash up front.”

He said homeowners in a crisis can feel relieved when a contractor shows up at their door offering help. But he advised homeowners do some research.  

“Does this business have a physical address? Are they local? Take the time,” he said. “I know that they feel like they’re in a hurry, but do the research, and ask for references.”

Justin Hamlin is with Blue Line Remodeling and Construction in Portage. He said there are hundreds of tree cutters and contractors canvassing the area in Portage, and most of them are legitimate. But he agreed that homeowners should research the contractor before they commit.

“You really don’t know. People can present themselves really well,” he said. “The biggest thing is making sure they are licensed and insured before they do any work for you.”

Hovestadt said residents can check with the Homebuilders Association for a list of licensed contractors.