Roofing rip-offs: Beware of scams, shoddy contractors
You can protect yourself from shoddy contractors by following-up with references, running credit checks and having proper paperwork in order before any work begins. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Grant H. of Salem, Ore.)
Evangelina DePaz knew the roof of her Flossmoor, Ill., home needed an overhaul so she hired Chuck's Construction to tear off and replace it. But a week after the $11,600 job was completed, she says she noticed water running down the chimney inside and into her basement.
"I didn't have water in my basement before," says DePaz, who says she discovered the company had tacked new roofing over three old layers and used inferior materials.
Owner Chuck Petreikis denies giving DePaz the short shrift, saying she later changed her mind about the roofing materials she wanted and the leaks she developed were due to rotting soffit and fascia boards, which he was not responsible for fixing. "Everything was done according to the contract," he says.
DePaz says she paid another $23,000 for a new roof to avoid losing her homeowners insurance. She gave Chuck's Construction a low rating on Angie's List, its only report as of press time, and tried to get a refund through the List's Complaint Resolution Process; however, her case ended in a stalemate.
Petreikis says his company replaced flashing at no additional cost to her and had an independent mechanical engineer review the roofing job. "Every so often, you get a customer you can't satisfy," Petreikis says.
Shoddy work a major complaint
Problems with roofers plague consumers across the country. One in three Angie's List members who took an online poll and had roofing work done say they had a problem with their contractor or developed an issue down the line. Of those who detailed their problems, 68 percent mentioned shoddy work as a problem. Others cited trouble with roofing contractors who overcharged them, lacked a license, or took their money and ran.
News reports and attorneys general also warn consumers to be wary of roofing fraud and scam artists. In Jefferson Parish outside New Orleans, for example, a father and son were recently jailed on more than 50 fraud and theft charges for an alleged roofing scam targeting senior citizens.
The Texas Department of Insurance warned Houston-area homeowners earlier this year about roofing contractors who were intentionally wrecking roofs to mimic storm damage to convince residents they needed repairs.
The Ohio attorney general issued a default judgment in May against a Dayton-based roofer, ordering nearly $140,000 in civil penalties and restitution for shoddy work, failure to provide refunds and bad estimates.
When Julie Adams and her husband bought their dream home in the country outside of Warrensburg, Mo., they knew a new roof was among the many needed repairs. R & B Roofing and Building was already doing a project for the couple in town, so they hired the company last August to also do extensive work on the farmhouse, which included rebuilding and replacing the entire roof.
"When they started on the projects, they seemed to be showing up, doing the work," Adams says.
But things soon went south after she noticed the roof trusses weren't lining up and company owner Brian McCormick had double-charged them for labor, according to Adam.
She says McCormick became angry when she questioned the quality of the roofing work. When he demanded a $5,000 check on top of the thousands she says she'd already paid, it was the last straw.
"I'm looking up and there's still sky," Adams says.
In total, she says they spent nearly $48,000 and their Warrensburg home now needs repairs while their country home remains uninhabitable.
McCormick says he took care of any billing discrepancies and never had a contract to install the roof, though contracts provided by Adams include references to roof materials and labor.
"She's a professional scam artist," says McCormick, who alleges Adams was hostile to his crew and was looking for a cheaper deal by firing his company.
Adams lodged a complaint with the Missouri Attorney General's Office, which says it's working on mediation to resolve Adams' and another consumer's complaints about R & B Roofing.
Tips to prevent rotten roofing work
There are many things you can do to prevent a roofing contractor catastrophe. As with any project, it's wise to get multiple bids.
"Everybody gets the shingles for the same cost and the labor is about the same cost, so if somebody is real low, they're probably risky," says Doug Moncure, owner of highly rated M & M Roofing & Siding based in Houston.
Asking for references from suppliers or running a credit check can also help you determine if a roofing company is solvent.
Bill Good, executive vice president of the National Roofing Contractors Association, says you should ask contractors for proof of workers' compensation and liability insurance.
"They should have certificates to prove it and should be happy homeowners asked, because a lot of fly-by-night contractors don't," he says. "If a contractor doesn't have insurance, the homeowner is taking some of the liability if a worker becomes injured on the job site."
Some industry experts report that shoddy roofing jobs plague many developments built during the housing boom over the last 10 years, resulting in roofs that need replacing after only a few years.
"There are subdivisions where you literally have to tear off half the entire roofs and redo them," says Dan Harris of Inspect AZ in Mesa, Ariz.
Always have your roof inspected before you buy a home.
Charles Nance, owner of highly rated CHN Inspections in Wildwood, Mo., says you can also help protect yourself with paperwork.
"If you don't have paid material receipts and lien waivers, you're going to end up paying for your roof twice," he says.
It's important to get a detailed contract in advance that includes any provisions for extras or changes.
Be wary of storm chasers, or contractors who flock to an area that's been hit by bad weather. After storms pummeled northeastern Ohio in May, Chris Kamis, co-owner of the highly rated Absolute Roofing and Construction in Cleveland, says he was approached by several out-of-town contractors who wanted to work under his company's name, including one who offered $100,000 plus $4 for every 100 square feet of roof installed.
"I've been in business for 24 years and there's no way I'm going to put my name on the line like that," says Kamis, whose company would've been responsible for covering the warranties. He says other area roofing contractors did sign contracts with the storm chasers.
"What they are doing is completely misrepresenting themselves," Kamis says.
Some legitimate out-of-town companies and workers will come to an area after stormy weather, but be cautious and make sure they're operating under appropriate local licensing and permitting laws. If you prefer a local contractor, but demand is high, many roofers will perform provisional repairs to tide you over.
Doing it right the first time
Lining up a good contractor to properly install a roof reduces the need for future repairs. Nance says improper ventilation can cause roofing shingles to become brittle and curl.
"You can cut the roof life expectancy by 20 or 30 percent with a poorly ventilated attic space," he says.
Incorrectly installed shingles can also cost you. When Kath Mullholand was preparing to sell her Greenland, N.H., home six years after installing a new roof, she was surprised to find that the shingles weren't layered per the manufacturer's instructions.
"Once you knew what to look for, it was obvious they weren't applied correctly," says Mullholand, who ended up eating the cost of a new $13,000 roof.
Several Angie's List members interviewed for this story tried to recover money when a roofing job went awry and some received favorable judgments in court, but were unable to collect the money. In 2007, the Pennsylvania attorney general ordered roofer Raymond Colagrande to pay nearly $18,000 for violating the state's consumer protection law with 12 customers, including Lisa Sunderland.
Sunderland hired Colagrande's company Raylin Roofing in Pittsburgh after seeing an ad in the PennySaver. She gave him a $2,500 deposit and Nov. 3 start date, but he didn't show.
"The holidays came and went and we didn't hear from him," says Sunderland, who later joined Angie's List. Despite the attorney general order to refund her deposit, she says she hasn't seen a dime.
Messages left for Colagrande were not returned. His company has two lowly rated reports on Angie's List and an F with the BBB for another company, R & L Roofing.
"He's a crook – he should be behind bars," Sunderland says.