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Avoid shady roofers after storms

Don't get caught off guard by storm chasers. Always do your research to ensure you hire the best. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Miles)

Don't get caught off guard by storm chasers. Always do your research to ensure you hire the best. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Miles)

by Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List

As we were discussing this month's issue about roofing scams around the office, it prompted some interesting conversation.

After a hailstorm in 2006, a salesperson knocked on my door and offered to fix our damaged roof. I told him I was fine and didn't need his help. Instantly, his tone changed and he became more aggressive, so much in fact, it awoke my husband from a nap.

He thrust his business card inside my screen door and left. Lo and behold, he was from out of state. On a job that big, it's always best to wait on a local company — one you can locate later should something go wrong.

Someone else in the office had a similar occurrence, where an unsolicited roofer told him his company was so skilled at working with insurance companies that they could likely get a new roof and not even have to pay a deductible.

After being shooed away once, the contractor continued to pressure my co-worker for his insurance information, until he said he worked at Angie's List and was going to contact other companies to get a second opinion. He never heard back from the salesperson, and it turns out his roof didn't need to be replaced.

While most roofing companies are legitimate and do quality work, others take a fly-by-night approach, offering quick service for cash payment. Often, they exploit homeowners who are anxious to get their lives back to normal.

A recent online member poll revealed that nearly 40 percent who hired a door-to-door roofer said the contractor did shoddy work.

Dallas members Nick and Laurie Phillips nearly fell victim to the same tactic. "A salesperson came to our door and said he noticed storm damage and asked if we were interested in getting a quote for our roof," Laurie says. The Phillips initially declined, but the representative assured them he could work with their insurance company and they would pay little or nothing out-of-pocket.

It seemed like a good deal to the Phillips, so they signed what they were told was a release to allow the roofer to contact their insurance company on their behalf. In reality, the form was an agreement that if the insurance company approved the claim, the couple had to contract with that roofing company. The couple admit they should have read the fine print, but also felt mislead by the rep, who assured them the document was just for estimate purposes.

Amy Bach, executive director of the non-profit United Policyholders, says the only authorization like this a consumer should sign is a simple, narrowly worded one that gives a specific contractor permission to discuss the claim — but not policy coverage limits. You won't get an accurate estimate if they know how much money your policy is worth. She also advises against signing anything obligating you to hire a company unless you've thoroughly vetted them and want to hire them.

When the Phillips decided to look for a different roofer, the owner sued them. The case was ultimately thrown out, after Laurie discovered a contract clause that stipulated both parties would forgo a lawsuit in favor of using an arbitrator. "We were just uninformed homeowners," she says. "We've certainly learned a lot from this."


Comments

Would like to look into roofers before my hiring someone

I actually work for a company that specializes in insurance restoration work. I can personally vouch for the fact that a segment of the companies in this industry is just in it for a quick buck, but there is also a segment that is truly in it to help homeowners and do quality work. Like anything else, it's always good for a homeowner to research a company, but they shouldn't write off a company just because they specialize in insurance restoration. There ARE good companies out there. Even the agreement to let the company do the insurance work for the insurance price can be to a homeowner's advantage because it simplifies the process for everyone. Again, if the company comes highly rated, there's no reason not to trust them, even if they started the conversation by knocking on your door.

I guess I got lucky. Our twelve-year old triple-shingled roof was getting so old we considered paying for a new one, but some door-knocker came by with a map of hail damage, including our block. He was somehow able to convince our American Family Insurance guy that it was hail, not age, and we let them deal with the insurance company (not a good idea, people say, but it worked for us!). They did a fantastic job, and our energy bills reflect our better roof.

Having been through four major hurricanes in the past 12 years, I’ve had dozens of questionable roofers knock on my door. To get rid of them, I asked two questions: “Who handles your warranty service? I see by your license plate you’re from (far away state).” This normally caused a deer-in-the-headlights reaction. I quickly followed up with, “If I check with the BBB or Angie’s List, what will I find out about your company?” Before they can think up a lie, I tell them I already had a roofer lined up, thanked them for their time and closed the door. It worked every time. Stick with a trusted local roofer, even if it means living with a blue tarp for a few months.

I can't resist responding to this editorial on shoddy traveling contractors. My experience is different. I had 1500 SF blow off in the recent March storm. I depended on a local trusted source to refer me to a local roofing small time contractor, whose vans you see on the local streets all the time. It was a horrific experience. He caused as much flooding as the original storm. That's when I began subscribing to Angie's list, because I no longer trust my personal contacts for referrals. Interestingly, gypsies from Maine who are passing through, have always done quality paving work on time, for the agreed upon amount.

Even well known local contractors can cause heartaches, I had a roof replaced through a local contractor who subbed out the work and then did not pay the sub contractor. Since I had paid the contractor who left town, I had to then pay the subcontractor to prevent a lien on my home.

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