Did you know many roofers use Storm Tracker apps so they can magically show up at your door following a storm? They will offer to examine your roof and let you know if there is any damage. Then they'll offer to contact your insurance company for you to handle the claim.
Sounds too good to be true, right? Right. Beware the roofer you didn't call.
Here are some of the scams roofers may use to con unsuspecting homeowners.
These roofers quickly descend on neighborhoods where recent storms may have damaged roofs from wind or hail. They will offer to do an inspection and show you photos of your damaged roof. The catch is - the photo may be fake or of someone else's roof.
If a roofer asks for a down payment for roofing supplies, don't do it! Legitimate roofing companies will have enough resources to do the job without asking for money upfront.
Another ploy may be an offer to pay your home insurance deductible in order to get access to your insurance reimbursement. Don't accept a roofer's offer to increase your total amount so you'll be compensated for your deductible either. This is insurance fraud.
If the roofer wants you to sign an Assignment of Benefits, which gives him permission to work on your behalf when filing an insurance claim, tell him you will contact your insurance company yourself so you know what's being covered and how much your contractor is being paid.
Granted, some start-up roofing companies may need to reach out by mailing flyers or leaving a card at your door advertising their services, but most reputable companies rely on customers finding them. It is better to use an app like Nextdoor or look up a business with the BBB than accept services from an unknown or unrated business.
Extremely Low Bid
A roofing contractor that gives you a project estimate that's much lower than other contractors' bids is probably too good to be true. Usually, this type of roofer will start low and then raise the price as the project goes on. You don't want to be in the middle of the project with the roof removed only to be told your price has doubled.
Mysterious or Exaggerated Damage
If a roofer can't pinpoint the damage or exaggerates it, your roof may not need any repair. Some roofers have been known to even damage the roof during a free inspection.
Asks You to Get the Permits
You should never be responsible for obtaining any necessary permits for any project in your home. If a roofer asks you to pull a permit, it may mean they aren't eligible to get one or have a bad relationship with the permit office, which could cause extensive delays.
A roofer may offer to give you a price break if you will accept "leftover" or discounted materials. "Special deals" like these rarely result in a durable or warrantied roof.
How to Avoid Being Scammed
If your roof is damaged and leaking, you can get a general contractor to cover it with a tarp before any more interior damage is done. Once that protection is in place, it is wise to take your time to find a good roofer with whom you are comfortable. A legitimate roofer will give you time to make a well-informed decision.
Find roofing contractors by word-of-mouth, through websites like Nextdoor or Angie's List, where you'll see consumer testimonials. If a company doesn't have an online presence or reviews, they are probably not a good choice.
Get bids from 3 to 5 companies. A new roof is a big expense. Make sure you get a fair price.
If possible, be outside with the roofer as the inspection is being done. It is much more difficult to fake damage or even cause it to get a bid if you are keeping careful watch.
Ask for references. Most reputable companies are willing to offer client references you can speak with about their experiences. Make sure you ask if they had any issues that were not resolved to their satisfaction.
Check your insurance policy to make sure what types of services are covered. Check your deductible and whether your premium will increase after the roof is completed.
Make sure you have a detailed, written contract that breaks down the scope of work, material and labor costs, as well as how long the work will take to be completed. If no contract is offered, walk away.
Take the time to research the materials being used. Warranties are important with roofing materials.
Check the roofer's license and insurance before you even let him look at your roof. Do not let him take one step on a ladder until you have to avoid liability if he should fall. You also want to make sure he has insurance in case he causes secondary damage to your home.
Pay only after the work is done, and never pay with cash. Use a debit or credit card so your payment can be tracked if necessary.
Questions to Ask Up Front
Here are some questions you should ask your roofer before signing any paperwork. Some may be outlined in the contract, but it is best to make sure all of these are covered before any work begins.
How many years of experience do you have?
Where is your business located?
Do you work with subcontractors? If so, who are they, and what is their experience?
Are you licensed? Note: Virginia does not require a license for roof replacement, but a contractor with a license is preferable.
Do you have liability insurance?
When are payments due?
Do you have references?
What are your terms of service (i.e. fees for changes, canceling a contract)?
Do you offer a warranty other than those provided by the materials manufacturers?
At Mutual Assurance, we work with our insureds directly on all claims. When they contact us about possible windstorm or hail damage, our claims professional arranges for a roof inspection. This protects the policyholder and the Society, ensuring no homeowner we protect is "scammed" by an unscrupulous roofer.
Sources: Five Coat Roofing, Angi's List, Forbes