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Attorney General Reports Success of New Unlicensed Builders Pretrial Diversion Program

LANSING – In February of this year, the Department of Attorney General launched a new pretrial diversion program to promote licensing compliance, ensure restitution to victims, and efficiently resolve cases of Michigan consumer complaints of harm caused by unlicensed builders in the state. The Unlicensed Builders Pretrial Diversion Program aligns with the Department’s consumer protection initiatives and allows for conditional mediation and swift restitution to victims while avoiding criminal prosecutions against unlicensed contractors should they quickly come into compliance with state licensing requirements and fully reimburse the complainant. To date, the program has secured $72,500 in restitution to Michigan residents.

“The Unlicensed Builders Pretrial Diversion Program has been very successful over its first few months, securing tens of thousands of dollars in restitution to consumers harmed by substandard and unlicensed contractors,” said Nessel. “This program has proven to be effective in tackling the uptick in unlicensed builder cases we have seen in recent years and is working to resolve these issues without criminal trials in the courts requiring further resources of the state. I am very thankful to the attorneys in my department’s criminal trials and appeals division for all of their hard work in establishing this program and securing justice for Michigan consumers.” 

Cases against unlicensed builders are initiated by consumer complaints to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) that typically allege a builder failed to perform or executed substandard work agreed to in a contract and are later found to be unlicensed in their profession. These instances are most often related to residential renovation projects and financially harm the customer left with little recourse to recoup their payment. To operate as a builder without the requisite licensure from the state is a crime, and since 2020 there has been a significant increase in cases of unlicensed builders. In 2022 the Criminal Trials and Appeals division of the Department of Attorney General handled over 200 misdemeanor Unlicensed Builder cases.  

Unlicensed builders are incentivized to participate in the program by the offer of avoiding a criminal prosecution should they tender full restitution to their victim and quickly come into licensure compliance. To be eligible for the pretrial diversion the accused builder must not have any prior violations of the unlicensed builder statute and the restitution owed must be less than ten thousand dollars. For an accepted participant in the program, the Department of Attorney General will close the criminal complaint against the builder, without pursuing criminal charges, when full restitution has been paid to the victim and the builder either proves they are no longer working in the field requiring licensure or they come into full compliance with all licensing requirements set by LARA.

The Unlicensed Builders Pretrial Diversion Program is securing speedy resolution and restitution for victims of unlicensed builders and quickly bringing unlicensed builders into compliance with the regulations of their profession. Through the process of licensure the state of Michigan aims to set a standard of qualified professionals performing safe and durable work and to protect consumers from unscrupulous business practices. Since the launch of the program six months ago the Department has cleared its backlog of criminal cases of unlicensed builders.

If you suspect you have been the victim of an unlicensed builder you can file a complaint with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.


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