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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.)

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."

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.


Comments

I have had my shed roof replace three times by different people and it still leaks!

I work at Jerry's Roofing, In Clarksville, TN. Never hire storm chasers. When hiring a contractor, always see buisness license, Work comp and liability papers (Insurance) and check with your local BBB.

Also watch out for "free inspections". Crooked roofers will purposely damage a roof then charge a lot to "fix" the damage. These scam artists usually prey on elderly people who can't climb a ladder to see what is happening.

Sanibel island--built new home with a roof that was NOT in my contract--water damage and what a mess.

this guy is a crok took us for a ton of money now we cant get ahold of him

Location???

Hi James ~ it would be very helpful if you told us where you are located in the country - especially if you want anyone to make a recommendation. Hope you find someone.

im looking for someone that dose windows siding roof floors level alltogether

Sadly, not all states have roofing contractor licensing. Texas is one of those states. Material pricing can vary depending on the arrangement a contractor has with a supplier.

"Karen," Thanks for your message. I'd encourage you to submit reports about your negative experiences if you haven't already done so. This will help other members in your service area when making a hiring decision. If you need additional help finding highly rated service providers, you can search the list or call our call center at 1-888-888-LIST.

Interesting that someone else noticed some "bad news" on Angie's List. At least 3 years ago I subscribed because our house had been ruined by two different contractors we had found on our own through referrals from friends. In both cases, before hiring them, we did our own homework, getting references and even visiting jobs they had done and talking to their clients. But we found that was NOT Enough. In both cases completely different crews were sent to work on our house than had done the jobs we inspected. Needless to say, I was more than miffed when I found that both of the contractors who ruined our house with their bait and switch were right there on Angie's list. For two years I have tried to file a complaint. This is the first time I have been able to have a voice! Our roof job was done by a Natick firm we had already used for another house and an office building. . . When it came time for the job, Watertite sent a group from New Bedford, not even one of them lived anywhere near here!. Jamie claimed he had to redo all of the shingles on the entire house if we wanted the entire thing guaranteed and warranteed, so we contracted for that. When leaks started appearing, we called him to complain and in all but one case, it was "not their fault." The dripping skylights "were old" and The rubber roof was not theirs (It topped the 9-year-old handicapped addition to our antique house) Yet when this area started leaking, they sent a guy who sealed all of the edges and the guard rails with roofing tar. I read the can and watched him do it. When further leaks occurred, Jamie blamed our guard rails. And then after two years, "it was no longer guaranteed" . A friend who once did slate roofing came over to check out our problems. He immediately asked who had put roofing tar on a rubber roof... it eats through rubber roofing when it heats up in the sun! He also discovered a row of shingles missing adjacent to the rubber roof! Perhaps this area was source of the original leak? We spent over $12,000 to replace the entire rubber roof and fix the shingles. Over the next three years, we developed other major leaks-- through the outer walls, appearing through Window frames, and from ceilings. We replaced the glass in our skylights since the "seals were broken". We have since found out they were not all flashed properly and that most likely the seals on the glass were broken when Watertite lifted them and reset them during the roofing job. A year ago we had Rick Copeland, who has proved to be a true professional, completely re-roof the entire house and replace all 8 skylights. As Copeland progressed with the job, what was discovered (uncovered) about the Watertite job was horrific: They found nails driven through flashing along facewalls, mistakes covered with scrap wood, some of the flashing was put on vertically rather than horizontally (not over-lapped, but with spaces in between), the weather shield was placed 4" above the edge of the roof and gutters, along the house where lower roofing adjoined some areas were sealed with vinyl caulk. Our house painters were also not the crew who's work we'd seen. Only one spoke English, some talked on cell phones while painting with the other hand! They "waffled" all of the window caulk using their fingers, making our antique home look "fringed". Any number of areas were left unpainted at the time they thought they were finished. . I took pictures of all and met with the contractor...more than once. Also, the two coats of paint promised were done with a new product on the market--the two-coat in one kind--and in less than two years it started buckling and splitting. We now face the massive and daunting task of restoring what was once an impeccable home, customed by a master craftsman...and then severely damaged by what was thought to be a new roof and fresh paint to head off the possibility of problems! We're just not sure WHO to turn to for guidance in finding truly good, conscientious craftsmen.

I have lived in my house for 10 years. I live in the small community of Harbor Springs, Michigan and did not expect to get consistently ripped off for needed roof repairs. This started before I owned the house. The home inspector gave me a 23 page report on the house that was very detailed, but failed to mention that the roof was not properly installed. My first attempt at repairs was an emergency after a leak. The guy did excellent work at a good price, but is not a licensed roofer and did not want to do any more work on it. That was the best service I have had. I then hired a highly recommended company who sent out their most experienced guy. Nothing he did was correct. i finally had to pay for it to avoid a ding on my credit rating, but had to have that entire section redone by someone else. I am still searching for someone I can trust.

We hired a member of the church for roofing and siding. Then we had to chase him to finish the work. Then we had to chase him more to repair the poor workmanship. We finally gave up and lived with it. The next man on the roof fixed up the lousy work done. Of course, this person is no longer doing roofin, siding, home improvements for hire. We hire known companies from Angie's List now.

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