If your furnace needs to be cleaned or repaired, make sure to hire a licensed professional who works for a reputable company. Steven Hilfinger, who directs Michigan's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, is especially worried about “scam artists.” He warns that many consumers are defrauded by people trying to scare consumers into making expensive repairs that they don't need. He advises consumers to always use a licensed mechanical contractor, one that offers you several good references that you can (and should) check. The problem, according to Hilfinger, is that few people really understand their furnace and the little they do know is that sometimes it can be dangerous. This makes it easy for a scam artist to dupe an unsuspecting consumer.
One of the best tips for furnaces is to remember the importance of good maintenance. Every homeowner should develop a monthly cleaning routine that includes their furnace. This is an easy job that only requires a household vacuum cleaner. If you make certain that the air returns are kept free from debris, your furnace will last much longer. While you are at it, check to make sure the filter is clean and does not need to be changed. If you do this regularly, you will improve the efficiency of your furnace.
Get your furnace cleaned by a licensed and reputable local mechanical contractor at two-year intervals.
Repairs or replacements may be covered; check the warranty on your system. Many heating systems have 10-year warranties, so it pays to see if you are still covered.
Hiring a Licensed Contractor
When you hire a heating contractor, make certain that you have checked the following:
1. They are insured. This should include both property and liability damage.
2. Their warranty covers not only labor, but also materials and equipment.
3. They can offer general service and ongoing maintenance, even after their warranty has expired.
4. They provide local customer references
How to Check a License
When you ask a contractor for their contractor's license, write down their name and license number. You can check it through the Michigan bureau's website at: http://www.michigan.gov/bcclicense
If you wish, you can also call the bureau at (517) 241-9325. You want to know that the license is valid and that they are insured for the work they are offering to perform.
It's important to get written estimates from at least three contractors, particularly if one of the contractors is recommending an expensive repair or a furnace replacement. Make certain that any estimate contains a complete description of the job. You also want to be clear about how you intend to pay. You will want to withhold the final payment until the job is inspected and approved by the mechanical code enforcing agency. This gives you one more layer of protection.
Don't Hire Unsolicited Workers
Never hire anyone who comes unsolicited to your door or calls you, unsolicited, over the telephone. Many of these 'scam artists' will offer a low cost or free cleaning service just to get into your home. Once there, they will scare you into thinking your furnace has a serious problem and needs an expensive repair. Whenever someone tells you that your furnace has a serious problem, get a written statement outlining what is wrong and then call other licensed mechanical contractors so you can get a second and third opinion.
Don't do business with anyone who comes to your door with a Shop-Vac type vacuum cleaner. Some 'scam artists' will claim that they can clean your heating duct. They cannot. These cleaners are not strong enough to do the job.
Finally, be very wary of scare tactics. Scam artists know that furnaces are complicated pieces of equipment and that a homeowner can be frightened into making a rash decision if they are sufficiently scared. They prey on your fear. If someone tells you that your health or life is in danger, ask the technician for a written copy of their report and then call your local utility company immediately. They will come and inspect your system for free.
Free Consultation With a Michigan Homeowner Protection Attorney
If you think you have been the victim of a scam, or if you have some other legal question, talk with an experienced Michigan injury lawyer today. Call the Michigan Injury Lawyers at 866-474-8357 or use our online contact form for a free evaluation of your case.