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Number of Unlicensed Contractors Rising in Alpena, City Official Urges Caution

According to Alpena Building Official Don Gilmet, there’s a rise of unlicensed contractors in the area.

With labor and material shortages, many contractors are looking at full schedules. At Leavesley construction in Alpena, they also have a lot on their plate. “Right now, we’re currently two years out of our schedule with no room for any fit-ins and no room for any little jobs,” said Kyle Leavesley, owner of Leavesley Construction. “Most contractors are in the same boat.”

While that’s a large workload for their business, more and more unlicensed contractors are appearing in the area and taking on available construction jobs. Gilmet warns that hiring one of these contractors is a huge risk to homeowners. “Anytime you’re looking at getting work done on your house, you should always ask, ‘are you licensed’ and you should ask to see the license,” he said. “‘Ask to see the insurance.”

“They are not able to provide you with liability insurance if something were to happen with the project, which does happen,” said Leavesley. “They do not have workers’ comp where if somebody gets hurt on that job, and this is a dangerous industry, that will fall back on you.”

A stack of lumber at Leavesley Construction.

Gilmet has seen the increase of unlicensed contractors and witnessed multiple people lose out on thousands of dollars because of it. “I know of three in the past month–people who have lost money,” he said. “One was to the tune of $12,000, one was to the tune of about $36,500, and the smallest one was $1,250.”

When it comes to getting that money back, it can difficult process. “We’re working through law enforcement and through the prosecutors office and the police departments to try and get them some restitution,” Gilmet said. “Unfortunately, there’s very little restitution with these unlicensed guys. Once they’ve got your money and spent it on something else, it’s very hard to get it back. At the best you’re going to get a judgment.”

Michigan is a right to work state, allowing customers to hire individual handymen daily. However, Gilmet has seen a few instances of unlicensed contractors with a whole crew of employees on jobs. He suggests anyone looking to get work done on their homes call their local building official to check out who they’re hiring for their own protection.