Spring is here, and with the spring weather comes storm season for most of the country. The spring months typically bring heavy rain, thunderstorms, strong winds, hailstorms, and even tornadoes in some parts of the US. While emergency service providers and honorable roofing contractors prepare to lend a hand to homeowners who experience severe property damage from spring storms, other parties chase storms in search of profits and homeowners to exploit.
Storm Chasers Exploit Homeowners
“Storm chasers,” or fraudulent roofers who travel the country in the wake of severe storms, promising quality work to unwary homeowners and failing to deliver, are a common problem across the United States. The typical storm chasing roofer experience goes something like this: a roofer shows up at a homeowner’s front door as the home displays clear roof damage from a recent storm.
The fraudster promises high-quality work in a short time, offers a limited-time promotion, or mentions working in the neighborhood and offers to use leftover materials to fix the victim’s roof. The victim agrees, pays for the work, and then the storm chaser either never shows up at all or puts on the lowest quality roof they can manage as quickly as possible.
In either of these scenarios, the homeowner is left with a financial loss and a “new” roof that will barely last five more years at best. A standard quality asphalt shingle roof installed by a professional licensed contractor should last 20 to 25 years. Unfortunately, most storm chasers are unlicensed, have no local business credentials, and travel out of the area before their victims realize what has happened to them. As storm season sets in across the country, it’s important to do everything you can to avoid becoming another storm chaser victim.
How to Avoid Storm Chaser Scams in Your Area
If your home sustains serious damage during a spring storm this year and you need roof repairs, it’s essential to protect yourself from parties that would like to take advantage of you when you need help. Not only will storm chasers perform subpar work when you need a reliable roof replacement, but they will also be long gone from your area by the time the average homeowner would notice the inferior quality of their work. A few tips can help you avoid these situations:
1. Do Your Own Research.
This is the number one rule of thumb for arranging any type of work on your home from any type of contractor. Ask the roofer to see proof of professional insurance and verify the business’s credentials in your area. You can call your local building department to check if the roofer has a legitimate registration as well.
2. Verify the Roofer’s Local Address.
A roofer who hands you a business card with nothing but a PO box as an address should be a major red flag. If the roofer provides you with an address in your area, make time to visit in person to get a better feel for the roofer’s qualifications.
3. Be Wary of High-Pressure Pitches at Your Door.
One of the ways many types of confidence men and other fraudsters succeed is by creating a false sense of urgency and pressure. A preferred tactic among storm chasers is to visit a mark’s home, offer a limited offer, a special deal using “extra” materials leftover from another job in the area, or another type of high-pressure pitch. These offers intend to make the victim feel like they’re missing out on a great opportunity unless they agree to the offered service.
4. Request Local References.
To be sure that the roofer is legitimate and won’t simply run out of the area after taking your money, ask for local references. Ask the roofer if they have performed work for others in your neighborhood and go look at the quality of the work in person. It may be worth asking neighbors about whether they have done business with the roofer in the past and their thoughts about the quality of the work.
5. Secure Multiple Quotes.
It’s typically a good idea to “shop around” a bit before paying for any type of construction work to your home, so instead of jumping on the first offer you encounter, it may be worth contacting a few other local roofing contractors in your area for a few more quotes. Comparing them can not only help you get the best price on the roofing work you require, but also help to reveal scams when you compare the quality of the work referenced in each quote.
6. Don’t Trust a Rock-Bottom Starting Bid.
The golden rule of avoiding scams is, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” A rock-bottom starting bid for your new roof typically means rock-bottom quality. The storm chaser offering such a deal will gladly take your money, offer a high-quality roof, and do the absolute bare minimum before skipping town. They may also promise you a low bid at first and then steadily increase the price due to “unforeseen” issues once work has already started.
7. Never Agree to Upfront Payment.
No legitimate roofer should demand a large deposit or full payment upfront before they complete the work you need completed. It’s not uncommon for roofers to require reasonable deposits before they begin work, but make sure there is some type of paper trail when it comes to your payment. Pay by check or credit card; handing cash to a storm chaser is a good way to lose your money without any type of record.
8. Don’t Let Anxiety Steer You Toward a Bad Decision.
Storm-chasers prey on vulnerable homeowners and capitalize on your desire to have your roof fixed as soon as possible. Don’t give them this opportunity and take your time when finding a reliable roofer to do the work you require and do it well.
These are some of the best ways you can avoid storm chaser scams and ensure high-quality work for your roof when you need it most. It can be difficult to pace yourself and take the time to do research on potential roofers when you’re dealing with the aftermath of a severe storm but doing so can save you a tremendous amount of money in the long run.