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AG Nessel Reminds Residents to Follow Emergency Orders and Avoid Scams Following Severe Storms
August 25, 2023
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is reminding Michigan residents to follow all emergency orders following severe weather which swept through Michigan, flooding communities, damaging homes, bringing down trees and power lines and leaving hundreds of thousands without power.
Those who witness downed lines or power poles near their homes, businesses, or along their commutes are advised to treat the line as though it’s energized. Residents should stay at least 30 feet away and report the issue to their local energy provider.
Residents should also exercise caution in all flooded areas. Do not attempt to wade into or drive through flooded areas, as the depth and condition of the road is not always obvious. Likewise, adhere to all barricades and follow posted detours. The State of Michigan has information on what to do in the aftermath of a storm on the MIREADY website, including tips on how to recover from a disaster.
Additionally, Nessel has re-issued three alerts to help consumers know their rights and responsibilities in the following areas:
- Michigan’s Towing Laws
- Beware of Buying a Flood-Damaged Vehicle; and
- Researching home repair contractors and offers to avoid being scammed.
“Transportation is essential for our residents to go about their daily tasks like getting to work or getting their kids ready as Michigan schools return,” Nessel said. “When an individual has their vehicle towed, the last thing they need is to be misled about how to retrieve it, and how much it should cost. The Department of Attorney General has the answers that can get them back in their vehicle and out on the road.”
Whatever the type of disaster, affected homeowners want to repair the damage right away to get back to a sense of normalcy. Unfortunately, that rush to repair one's home often leads otherwise careful consumers to make decisions they would not normally make.
To avoid falling victim to a scam, take the following steps:
- Breathe! Take some time to absorb what has happened, and don't make any rash decisions before doing your homework. This is especially true if you are approached by anyone telling you they can fix your home right away – but only if you accept their "help" right now. Legitimate home repair contractors understand you need time to do your homework and check them out before you pay them anything or sign any contracts.
- Talk to your homeowner's insurance agent or company. Carefully review your homeowner's insurance policy to determine what damage may be covered and the amount of your deductible. Then be sure to contact your homeowner's insurance agent or company, writing down questions you have and the answers that you are provided, along with a list of whom you talked to and when. Knowing what your insurance will cover will help you to determine how much you are able to spend on repairs, and prioritize repairs based on safety and need.
- Do your homework. Do your homework before hiring a home repair contractor by following the tips found in the remainder of this Consumer Alert. Some of our tips include ensuring that the home repair contractor you've decided to hire is licensed, insured, well-regarded by your friends and neighbors, and you are comfortable with their complaint history (if one exists).
- Get everything in writing, never pay in cash, and never pay in full up front. Ensure that all promises, quotes, and expectations are put in writing in a contract that you will carefully review before signing. Paying for a home repair using a credit card is recommended, because using credit cards provides you with added protection to dispute a charge if the repair is not completed. Finally, you should never pay for an entire home repair up front! To ensure that all work is completed in accordance with the contract terms and your expectations, arrange to pay for only part of the work up front and pay for the rest of the work once it is complete to your satisfaction.
“Education and awareness are the best tools we have to fight against bad actors looking to take advantage of those experiencing hardship,” Nessel continued. “Our Consumer Protection team is committed to investigating complaints. I encourage people to contact our office if you believe a business or individual is engaging in fraudulent behavior in response to the severe weather.”
Those experiencing power outages are encouraged to share their outage experience online through the Department’s Outage Feedback Form. Nessel launched the feedback initiative in 2021 to begin gathering information focused on the state’s power companies.
The feedback provides valuable insight as she continues to advocate for consumers before the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), which regulates utility companies.
To file a complaint with the Attorney General, or get additional information, contact:
Consumer Protection Team
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
Toll free: 877-765-8388
Online complaint form