After-disaster home repair scams are a multi-million-dollar industry, using computerized hail forecasting, teams of out-of-state installers, and trained salespeople who go door-to-door soliciting work, says the U.S. Better Business Bureau.
Some of the most common “after-disaster” scams involve damage done to roofs, so if you had roof damage in the latest round of wind storms, try these BBB tips:
- Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts if temporary roofing repairs are necessary.
- Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid letting your emotions get the better of you. Don’t be pressured into making an immediate decision with a long-term impact. Be pro-active in selecting a company and not re-active to sales solicitations.
- For major repairs, take time to shop around and get three to four estimates based on the same specifications and materials. Check out references that are at least a year old, verify that businesses are licensed/registered to do work in your area, and check with your local building inspector to see if a building permit is required.
- Be wary of door-to-door workers who claim to have left-over materials from a job “down the street” or who do not have a permanent place of business. If sales people go do-to-door, check to see if your community requires them to have solicitation permits.
- Be leery if a worker shows up on your doorstep to announce that your home is unsafe. If you are concerned about possible structural damage in your home, have an engineer, architect, or building official inspect it. While most roofing contractors abide by the law, don’t let someone you don’t know inspect your roof. An unethical contractor may actually create damage to get work.
- Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. Be sure their name, address, license number, and phone number is included in contract. Read and understand the contract in its entirety, don’t sign a blank contract, and get a copy of the contract immediately after you sign it.
Clearly written repair contracts that are detailed and broken down into separate line items are a good sign that the contractor is being thorough and has prepared an accurate estimate. A good estimate includes:
- The type of roof covering, manufacturer, and color
- Materials to be included in the work, e.g., underlayment, ice dam protection membrane
- Scope of work to be done
- Removal or replacement of existing roof
- Flashing work, e.g., existing flashings to be replaced or re-used, adding new flashing, flashing metal type
- Ventilation work, e.g., adding new vents
- Who is responsible for repairing/replacing exterior landscape or interior finishes that are damaged during the course of the work? Who is responsible for any other damage that occurs as a result of the work?
- Installation method
- Approximate starting and completion dates
- Payment procedures
- Length of warranty and what is covered, e.g., workmanship, water leakage
- Who will haul away the old roofing materials and/or project waste (e.g. extra materials, packaging, etc.)? Is there extra charge for this service?
If one estimate seems much lower than the others and it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many fly-by-night contractors’ below-cost bids seem attractive, but these contractors often are uninsured and perform substandard work or use substandard materials the BBB says.
Be wary of a contract clause calling for substantial cancellation fees or liquidation damages if you decide not to use the contractor after insurance approval of the claim. In some instances you may be required to pay the full agreed price if you cancel after a set cancellation period. If an estimate or contract is confusing, ask the contractor to break it down into items/terms you can understand.