GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan’s attorney general is touting the success of a new program aimed at holding unlicensed builders accountable and helping victims swiftly recoup any financial losses.

Since 2020, there’s been a “significant increase” in delinquent contractor cases, according to the office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

In 2022 alone, the A.G.’s Criminal Trials and Appeals division handled more than 200 misdemeanor unlicensed builder cases.

But a new pretrial diversion initiative, launched in February, has helped the state clear its backlog of such cases.

The Unlicensed Builders Pretrial Diversion Program allows first-time offenders to avoid prosecution as long as they promptly reimburse their customer in full and obtain proper licensing.

“The (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,” Nessel said in an August news release. “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.”

Since February, Nessel said the program has secured $75,000 in restitution for Michigan residents.

“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,” Nessel explained.

Builders are only eligible if they have no prior violations of the unlicensed builder law.

Additionally, the restitution owed to the victim has to be less than $10,000.

“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 Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs),” Nessel said.

Complaints against unlicensed contractors are initially handled by LARA.

If you believe you’ve been victimized by an unlicensed builder, the attorney general’s office urges you to file a complaint through LARA.