Roofing Scams During Hail Season

Barbara Vanhagen lost more than $23,000 in the Lifetime Roofing scam and hopes her story is cautionary to other homeowners according to Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.   Trust your gut, check contractor references, ask specific questions about experience, work timelines and make sure it’s in the contract.  And, don’t feel pressured and absolutely don’t give full insurance payments upfront”.

Unfortunately, the hail season means roofing scams are abundant.  These storms can bring out the worst in people and employ fraudulent contractors who are scam artists.  These fraudsters will often make false promises, insist on the full payment up front, and create damage where none should have occurred.

So you don’t think it will happen to you?  Well it does happen, that is what 18 disaster fraud victims in Jefferson County thought before their contractor stole nearly $70,000 in upfront insurance money without replacing their roofs.  Jefferson county prosecutors worked with the National Insurance Crime Bureau to convict Jonathan McMillan, owner of Lifetime Roofing.

This roofer hired sales people to go door-to-door soliciting roofing business from homeowners, some of them at risk, elderly adults, and others with homes damaged from hailstorms.  These great salespeople were told to have people sign contracts and to collect as much insurance money as possible, UP FRONT.  After receiving payment from homeowners or their insurance companies, he never returned to do the work.

According to Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, catching these shady contractors is not easy since they usually move on and start something else before people realize they have been taken.  Storm victims have to be the first to defend themselves by knowing who they are dealing with and taking every precaution before paying their insurance claim to a contractor.

How to Choose The Right Contractor After An Insurance Claim

Choosing the right contractor after a claim can be tough. So in this blog I am going to discuss  how to locate the right contractor, and how to deal with the contractor during the process of the project. My standpoint and advice is coming directly from my knowledge and experience as an insurance agent.

First you need to find the right contractor. This can be done in many ways;  through the internet, recommendation from a friend, a door knocker and etc. Recommendations directly from your insurance company are not always the best. The contractors tend to favor the insurance companies and what they want to do, versus working solely for you. If you have an insurance broker or agent recommending a contracting company, they will generally work in the client’s favor.  (Brokers & agents need to keep their clients happy if they wish to retain business) I personally have a couple of contractors I recommend.

Be very careful about door knockers (solicitors that come in after a catastrophe, such as a wildfire or bad hail store.) Though not all cases but most likely, these are illegitimate people  who take your money and jump state.  Be very careful of contractors  from out-of-state.

Once you have found a contractor who you like, check them  out. See if he or she is  accredited with the BBB, or the Chamber of Commerce. Look on the internet for reviews(be careful sometimes they can be fake), see how long they have been in business, ask for recommendations and ask to see recent jobs they have completed  (not pictures of work but an actual address you can go see and look a completed project).  Also ask for a list of suppliers. Suppliers will be able to tell you how good and reputable a contractor is.

Now you have done your research and you have decided that the contractors are worthy of completing work for you. Now they are going to ask for you to both sign a contract. First of all, read everything in the contract. DON’T EVER SIGN ANYTHING UNLESS YOU HAVE READ IT AND UNDERSTAND IT! Make sure everything is under your conditions and the circumstance you want. Make sure there is also a grace period for you to back out without  stipulations. Don’t ever sign a contract that is incomplete or blank. Make sure you get an exact copy of what you sign.

Next the contractor is going to ask for money down or half down. My advice is NEVER  GIVE A CONTRACTOR ANY MONEY UNTIL THE PROJECT IS COMPLETE. If they can’t complete a job without any money down, then they are not a real contractor. A good contractor can get any job done, without any money down or up front cost.

Before a contractor shows up to any job site, make sure you get the following from he or she. A Certificate of Insurance, this should include general liability with a minimum one million in liability, workman’s comp, and commercial auto insurance with at least a half million dollar liability limit. Do not directly accept the certificate from the contractor. Get it directly from the insurance company or agent. They are too easy to fake. If you feel wary about the certificate call the company or agency. Make sure that the contractor has also pulled a permit through the proper authorities. Also, NEVER sign for any materials that gets delivered to the job site.  Once you sign for any materials, you are now responsible for them.  If they can’t deliver with supplies without a signature, then tell them you will find another contractor.

Finally your project is done and now the contractor is asking for his money. Make sure you do/get three things. Make sure you inspect the job and it meets your standards. Get the final inspection report from the proper authorities from which the permit was granted. Make sure that their report is satisfactory.  Finally make sure you get a signed lien waiver from the contractor.  Now you can pay them.