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Severe weather brings more than dark clouds, heavy rains, and overly lush television meteorologists. After nasty thunderstorms and hurricanes, crooks come hoping to defraud unsuspecting homeowners. These types of scammers pose as legitimate contractors and have a ton of false promises that they will fix your storm damaged roof.
Don’t fall for it.
Rooftop repair scams are often used to separate you from your money in the form of upfront payments or by cashing a homeowner’s insurance claim. They will leave you with unfinished or lousy work.
“We know fraudulent contractors will be out there to take advantage of people who are in a vulnerable situation,” said Jim Schweitzer, chief operating officer of the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), in a statement.
Here are ways to avoid roof repair scams.
The perfect storm setup
Here’s how a typical rooftop scam works: after a storm hits your area, you are contacted by someone claiming to be a contractor (they might even knock on your door). The scammer will pressure you to sign a contract on site or pay in advance. They may even offer to inspect your roof to purposely cause more damage and increase an insurance claim.
Here are some common types of roof repair scams to be aware of:
- Ask for prepayment. A dishonest contractor will insist that you pay them upfront before they start working. However, the contractor disappears and never completes or even starts the job.
- Exaggerated damage. The contractor will exaggerate, exaggerate, or lie the extent of the damage in hopes of overwhelming you or your insurance company. In some cases, they can do more damage so they can file a larger bill.
- Lowball commandments. Some scammers will try to seduce you with a cute offer. They will have a much lower bid than other contractors, or they could claim they are getting a “special hurricane deal”. They may even offer a discount on your deductible. These types of offers are usually too good to be true.
- Bad repairs. The contractor can get the job done, but it’s usually rushed and with poor quality material.
How to rule out a storm chasing scammer
First and foremost, don’t sign anything or pay upfront contractors for roof repairs after a storm. If you think your roof is damaged, the first time you should call your insurance agent to make a claim for home insurance for roof damage. Your insurer will send an expert to examine the damage. Try to get some estimates from local, reliable companies.
“We encourage homeowners to contact their insurance company or their agent when they experience damage to their property and always be suspicious of a contractor trying to get you to sign a contract or start work without giving references, ”says Schweitzer.
Here are more tips to avoid getting scammed by a storm chaser:
- Get more than one estimate. Don’t let a contractor pressure you into hiring them for the job.
- Work with licensed and insured contractors. While not all states license roofers, it is a good idea to find out if your state does. Request proof of the contractor’s liability insurance and make sure that the policy has not expired.
- Research. Verify that the contractor is a member of a local, state, regional, or national roofing industry association. Check for complaints with the Better Business Bureau. Ask for customer testimonials and a list of completed projects.
- Get a signed contract before work starts. Make sure to include costs, schedules, payment schedules, guarantees, and other expectations. Don’t leave any part of the contract blank.
- Coordinate with your insurance company. Make sure your adjuster checks for the damage before the repairs begin. Your claim could be denied if the insurance company doesn’t examine the damage first, which means you will no longer be able to pay out of pocket.
- Pay by check or credit card. Don’t pay in cash. Do not pay the contractor in full or sign a certificate of completion until the work is completed to your satisfaction and in accordance with local building codes.
If you suspect roof repair fraud, contact your state’s insurance fraud office or the NICB.
This Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be “extremely active”, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA is forecasting 19 to 25 named storms this season. A named storm brings winds of 39 miles per hour or more, enough to cause roof damage.