Your roof is arguably the most important feature of your home. No part works harder to keep the elements out of your home, so when it is time for your roof to be repaired, you cannot afford to waste any time. Unfortunately, this urgency can leave homeowners as vulnerable targets for scam artists. From overcharging for materials to skipping town after securing a massive deposit, scammers have become increasingly bold in their tactics and prey upon unsuspecting homeowners in a variety of ways. To protect yourself from being taken advantage of, be sure to keep an eye out for the following schemes.
Common Roofing Scams
Disappearing deposits: One of the most common roofing scams occurs when a company agrees to repair or replace a roof but requires the customer to pay for materials and labor upfront, only to disappear once the money is secured. This is especially common among new roofing companies who do not have an established reputation within the area but attempt to secure business with flashy brochures and websites. A reasonable deposit would be in the 30% range.
Door-to-door salesmen: Another large scam in the roofing industry involves a door-to-door salesman showing up at your house and promising a free roof inspection or repair. Once they receive permission to go up on your roof, the scammer will fabricate damage by tearing shingles, hitting the roof with a hammer, or present a photo of another damaged roof. While some companies use door-to-door salesman in an honest manner, it is best to exercise vigilance and not sign any paperwork until you have verified the company’s legitimacy.
Storm chasers: Out-of-town storm chasers, also known as “roof gypsies,” follow areas recently hit by storms in an attempt to exploit homeowners. Storm chasers evaluate how much it will cost to replace a cheap roof and compare it to the amount that a homeowner’s insurance policy is willing to pay. After doing the bare minimum, they vanish and move onto the next area, leaving the homeowner with a poorly constructed roof. As detailed in our previous blog on choosing the right contractor online, the most trustworthy roofers are those who have been serving the same area for several years and have an established reputation.
High-pressure sales: Yet another common scam is for a roofing company to resort to dishonest and high-pressure sales tactics in order to get a homeowner to enter into a legally binding contract at a high rate. The goal of a professional roofing estimator should be to educate you on the condition of your roof and the different solutions available to remedy those conditions. This is an expensive investment and homeowners should take time to make this decision.
Fluctuating bids: In a fluctuating bid scheme, also known as an “elevator ride” scam, a roofing contractor will secure a job by offering a bid that is far lower than other roofers in the area, only for unexpected costs and problems to arise later that cause the price to skyrocket. As you review multiple proposals compare the scope of work being provided, not just the price. The “add-on” items on one bid making it appear more expensive may be the unexpected items pending as a change order on the other. A reputable roofer should provide a bid for all roofing issues up front, with the only exception being structural issues or wood replacement that can’t be seen during the inspection.
Tips for Dealing with a Roofing Company
- Ask for the contractor’s license number (if your state licenses roofers) and insurance information. Also write down the person’s license plate number and, if possible, driver’s license number.
- If you allow unfamiliar contractors to inspect your roof, be sure to supervise them. However, it’s best not to let them onto your roof at all.
- Be especially wary of contractors who say replacing your roof won’t cost a thing. They may even claim they’ll pay your deductible for you.
- Never sign a contract with blanks. Get everything in writing: Cost, scope of work, time frame, guarantees, payment schedule and other expectations. And, read every contract carefully, paying particular attention to any “assignment of benefits” language.
- Don’t pay in full or sign a certificate of completion until the work is done and you’re satisfied with the outcome.
We know it can all seem a little daunting. While most contractors are honest, there most certainly those who are not. We just want you to be aware of some scenarios you may encounter so you can protect yourself.