We’ve all heard stories or read about roofing scams in the news. The truth is, not all exterior contractors are licensed to inspect your home and even those that are may not have the best intentions. It can be difficult to recognize the signs. That’s why so many scams are successful.
That said, the purpose of this article is to arm homeowners with the knowledge and confidence they need to recognize and dodge common roofing scams.
Table of Contents
- Trust Your Gut
- File an Insurance Claim for Storm Damage
- Types of Scammers
- Steps to Vet & Hire a Roofing Company
Trust Your Gut
This is one of those general life lessons that few of us are lucky enough to hang onto. If you only take one thing from this article, take this. When it comes to protecting yourself from roofing scams and fraud, these are the basics:
You Are Not Alone
Many homeowners, especially our senior citizens, have fallen victim to contractor scams. There is nothing to be ashamed of. The best way to thwart a scam is to bring it to light. Even if you suspect you have already begun to fall for a scam, it’s not too late.
It’s Okay to Ask for Help
Most of us have no idea what we are doing when it comes to home ownership, let alone major responsibilities like hiring a roofing or siding contractor. Unless we learn from the experiences of other, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Ultimately, our shame, embarrassment, and sense of independence are what make scams successful.
If you need help, ask a loved one or neighbor. It’s completely normal and you’d be surprised who is willing to help.
Don’t Act Out of Fear
Dishonest companies and shady salespeople feed on your fear of missing out, losing something you care about or being taken advantage of. If you’re not sure, stand your ground and don’t let anyone pressure you into making a decision right away.
File an Insurance Claim for Storm Damage
If you think you have storm or hail damage, call your insurance company. We cannot stress this enough. They will send a licensed adjuster to inspect your property for damage. If there is damage to your roof, they will send you a check to replace all or part of your roof.
Common Myths About Storm Damage Claims
The best way to avoid a scam is to be informed. Many homeowners are afraid to make a claim on their homeowner’s insurance, because of these common myths and misconceptions:
Myth: My premiums will increase if I file a claim.
Fact: Insurance premiums are managed by zip code. Whether you file a claim or not, your insurance carrier may raise the rates in the area affected by the storm.
Myth: My insurance provider will cancel my policy if I file a claim.
Fact: If you pay your premiums on time, your insurance company cannot legally cancel your coverage because you file a legitimate claim.
Myth: Someone from the roofing company needs to inspect my roof with the insurance adjuster to make sure all the damage is accounted for.
Fact: Unless you are extremely fortunate, neither the roofer, nor the insurance adjuster are putting your best interest before the well being of themselves and their company. Insurance adjusters are licensed to perform roof inspections, so they know what to look for.
Types of Scammers
Only out to make a fast buck, the goal of these fraudsters is take your money and run in one form or another. They can take several different forms, such as:
- Fake or illegitimate businesses
- Irresponsible independent contractors
- Established companies that are poorly managed or going broke
- Storm chasers who are nowhere to be found for service calls
Steps to Vet & Hire a Roofing Company
In general, you should never take a salesman’s word at face value. Do your due diligence before you make the choice to hire a specific contractor. These steps will help you detect roofing scams and keep the company accountable to you.
Verify Licensing & Insurance
There are at least two licenses required to provide roofing services in Illinois. Of course, there is the state business license, but some municipalities require additional licensing by town, city, or county. In Illinois, roofers must obtain a state license before they even begin advertising their services. By law, a licensed roofing contractor in Illinois should readily furnish their license and proof of contractor’s insurance at the homeowner’s request. If not, you would be wise to cross them off your list. However, you can also verify licensing online, if need be:
- IDFPR requires roofing contractors to post their roofing license number on all advertising materials, including their company website, if they have one.
- Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) License Lookup is an online tool to search licenses held by roofers and several other regulated professions.
- Illinois Department of Business Services provides a public Illinois Corporation and LLC Search database to check the status of a state business license.
Once you find the records, make sure the status of each license is “Active” and not expired or revoked.
Hold Payment Until the Work is Done
Generally, if a contractor asks you to pay in full up front, it’s not a good sign. Even if they intend to finish the job, it can lead to problems such as poor or unfinished work or a ridiculously long project timeline. Make a down payment to cover the materials for your job and the rest when the project is complete.
Get a Written Estimate
Most insurance companies require their policy holders to obtain estimates before they cut a check. However, if you already have or plan to receive an insurance check prior to getting a roof replacement estimate, keep that amount to yourself. This will keep the contractor honest and prevent insurance fraud.
Request Local Reviews & References
Just because a company has a P.O. Box or even an office in your town, it doesn’t mean they are local like they say they are. Make sure they have a history of satisfied customers near you. It’s reasonable to ask for 3-5 photos and addresses of completed jobs.
Don’t Sign Until You Are Ready
If a door-to-door rep asks you to sign their estimate form, don’t. Your signature isn’t required on anything but the final contract, which you shouldn’t sign until you are ready to make a down payment and start your project.