Roofing Scams: When to Be Wary
Contractors Promise Free Roof Replacements in Storm-Hit Areas
One day following a particularly nasty hailstorm, you receive a knock on your front door. It’s roofing contractors, and they can replace your roof at no cost to you – it’s covered by your insurance.
Suspicious? You should be.
Roofing contractors (the not-so-reputable kind) spring into action following a storm, coaxing homeowners into okaying work that may or may not be needed and may or may not be covered by their insurance. So, despite how genuine the contractors may seem, it’s smart to remain wary until you work out a few key details. These scenarios and tips should help you sort out any confusion.
Contractors: Want to Take a Quick Look at Your Roof
You: Should Decline
The problem with this scenario is, if you let dishonest contractors onto your roof, they might do more than just look for damage. They might go so far as to cause damage. Why? They want a reason to replace your roof. There’s money in it for them, remember? So, if they don’t see a valid reason, they may attempt to create one.
When representatives from your insurance company come out to take a look, they will likely know the difference between actual storm damage and artificial damage. And, since you only have coverage for the former, according to the terms of your policy, you may have to pay out-of-pocket to repair the latter. So, leave the initial roof inspection to your insurance company or to someone you know and trust.
Contractors: Insist on Starting Work Right Away
You: Should Research, Not Rush
So, the contractors want to begin work right away and handle the insurance details later. All you need to do is sign. Not so fast. You haven’t been in touch with your insurance company, you don’t know anything about the roofers and you likely haven’t had a chance to read the fine print – all red flags.
This is when you stop and ask for the roofers’ business card and references and tell them you may be in touch. Then contact your insurance company, which can likely recommend a reputable roofing contractor in your area. If you wish, look into the other contractors’ reputation online, such as with the Better Business Bureau or other online review sources.
Contractors: Say Your Insurance Company Will Pay the Entire Cost of a New Roof
You: Need to Hear This From Your Carrier, Not a Contractor
Sure, a contractor may say you’re entitled to a new roof because a storm went through the area or because your neighbor’s getting a new roof. However, a random contractor doesn’t know the specifics of your homeowners insurance policy. That’s why it’s important to start with your insurance company when facing the need for potential roof repairs or a potential roof replacement following a storm. This allows you to understand whether or not you have coverage for the scenario at hand. It also helps you know how much you may need to pay out of your own pocket, such as your deductible. And, isn’t that nice to know upfront?
Contractors: Want You to Assign Your Insurance Benefits to Them
You: Should Be Very Cautious
Say you assign your insurance benefits to roofing contractors, who claim this will make the whole process quicker and easier. The problem here is that you may end up being scammed. The contractor may pocket the insurance money and skip town before finishing your roof repairs.
The bottom line is this: Rushing into roof repairs or a roof replacement may leave you on the line for some or all of the costs. So, be wary of contractors going door-to-door in your neighborhood, and contact your insurance company at once if you suspect you have roof damage following a storm.
If you still find yourself hiring or interacting with a roofer, here are some tips:
5 Tips for Dealing With a Roofing Contractor
- Ask for the contractor’s license number (if your state licenses roofers) and insurance information. Also write down the person’s license plate number and, if possible, driver’s license number.
- If you allow unfamiliar contractors to inspect your roof, be sure to supervise them. However, it’s best not to let them onto your roof at all.
- Be especially wary of contractors who say replacing your roof won’t cost a thing. They may even claim they’ll pay your deductible for you.
- Never sign a contract with blanks. Get everything in writing: Cost, scope of work, time frame, guarantees, payment schedule and other expectations. And, read every contract carefully, paying particular attention to any “assignment of benefits” language.
- Don’t pay in full or sign a certificate of completion until the work is done and you’re satisfied with the outcome.
Finally, one last warning: Contractors may try to pull similar scams with windows, siding or driveways following a storm, so be wary.
We know it can all seem a little daunting. We just want you to be aware of some scenarios you may encounter so you can protect yourself. Because, while not all roofing companies engage in disreputable behavior, some of them certainly do.
So, remember, get in touch with your independent insurance agent or your insurance company first to deal with storm damage. Doing so may just help you avoid unsavory characters and contract conditions.