Your roof is one of the most important components of your house. It protects your home and family from rain, snow, cold, heat, and other potentially harmful elements. When a roof is damaged, it is wise to have it repaired as quickly as possible to prevent it from getting worse. However, homeowners need to be wary of jumping into what appears at first to be the cheapest, quickest, and easiest solution to their roofing problems. Roofing scams are pulled on unsuspecting homeowners all the time. Scammers often cheat naive homeowners out of thousands of dollars. There are several ways to spot scams and avoid the heartache that comes with falling for them.
Scams to be aware of
These scammers travel the country to prey on areas that have been hit with large storm damage, such as strong winds and hail. They often pass out brochures in neighborhoods or show up to homeowners’ doors unannounced to offer a roof estimate, free of charge. These salespeople know how insurance companies work, and they give homeowners deceptively low estimates for roof repairs. When it comes to performing the work, they often do the bare minimum without addressing deeper problems that leave the roof vulnerable to damage in the near future. After installing the cheaply constructed roof, the roofer vanishes. By the time homeowners experience problems with a new roof, they will have no way to contact the “invisible” roofer.
To avoid this scam, do your research. Require proof of insurance, and be sure the roofer has a legitimate license by checking with your local building department or licensing agency. You should also make sure the roofer has a local office by paying a personal visit during construction. Gathering references can help identify scams, as well.
Unusually High Prices
Using a tactic opposite from the storm chasers method, this scam involves overcharging for services. Good roofing companies will charge a fair, honest price. To distinguish between reasonable and exorbitant prices, shop around for a good roofing contractor by getting estimates from four or five separate businesses. This way, you’ll get a good feeling for what the average cost should be. Don’t only look at price, though. Quality is extremely important, so be sure to look at customer recommendations and reviews before pinpointing the contractor that is right for you.
The salesperson who shows up at your doorstep uninvited offering a free new roof is one of the biggest scams in the book. While these scammers view every homeowner as fair gain, they often target elderly homeowners who have older homes and areas that have recently been struck by major storms. The scammer will first offer you a free roof inspection and climb up onto your roof to look around for damage. If the damage is not substantial enough, the salesperson will often create more damage to your roof by tearing off shingles or hitting areas with a hammer to make it appear as if the roof has hail or wind damage. This is so your insurance company will consider the roof damaged enough to cover it. Avoid this scam by refusing to sign any type of paperwork until your insurance company has done a thorough inspection of your roof.
A very common roofing scam involves a contractor meeting a homeowner for a scheduled consultation or showing up unannounced to discuss roofing work that needs to be done. When speaking with the homeowner, the contractor suggests that they are offering exceptionally low rates for the job. If the homeowner acts disinterested, the contractor puts on more pressure, attempting to mislead the homeowner into believing the offer is a much better deal than it actually is. The goal of these high-pressure contractors is to get the homeowner to sign a legally binding contract on the spot. They know that the longer the homeowner is able to think about the decision, the less likely he or she will be to sign. The prices offered are usually much higher than other bids in the area, which a homeowner's independent research can quickly reveal. Because replacing a roof is not something homeowners do regularly, they typically are inexperienced with having it done and are more susceptible to high-pressure tactics. Once they have signed a legal agreement for the work, it’s usually too late or not worth it to back out.
To avoid falling prey to these schemers, don’t sign any contract without taking time to think about the terms and do your research, and never give a down payment for a roofing project. If a contractor requires all “decision makers” to be present at the consultation, beware. This probably means they are going to try as hard as they can to get you to sign an agreement on the spot, not giving you time to talk it over and do your research. Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to ask the contractor to leave. If they refuse, call the police.
The Disappearing Down Payment
This scam occurs when a roofer requires a down payment before any work is done or any supplies are delivered to the home. The company will claim they need the down payment to pay for labor or buy necessary materials to complete the project at hand. Once the homeowner gives them the money, the contractor probably won’t be seen again. Beware if a roofer requires a down payment without doing any initial work or dropping off materials.
Ways to Detect a Scam
There are other specific things you can look out for to avoid a scam. Beware of phrases such as “insurance companies are compensating” or “most homeowners are not aware of storm damage to their roof.” These are often giveaways that a “roofer” is trying to scam you. Many scams occur after a storm hits an area. After a big storm involving hail, find out how large the hailstones were. Usually, hail needs to be at least 1¼ inches in diameter to do any damage to a roof. If a roofer is claiming that there is damage to your roof, check to see if damage was even possible, first, and then call your insurance company for a proper inspection.
As a general rule, you should always do a substantial amount of research before hiring a roofing contractor. Roofing repair or installation can be a big deal and a large investment. You’ll want the job done well. Contact the Better Business Bureau for more information on the company you’re considering. A reputable contractor will want to prove that they are trustworthy. If a roofer shows no proof of licensing, insurance, or other documents, consider it a red flag. A legitimate contractor should offer or be able to give you
- References and testimonials
- Workers compensation insurance
- General liability insurance
- Written warranties for both manufacturer and labor
Some door-to-door salespeople are honest, hard-working professionals who will do a great job on your roof, while others are just the opposite, using deceit as their number one sales tactic. By doing your research, you should be able to avoid any roofing scams that are being perpetrated in your area.
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