Roofing scams only work when you fall for them. You know – “if it sounds too good to be true…” When your roof needs repair or replacement, all you have to do is search the classifieds, in print or online, for roofing professionals. Unfortunately, every year hundreds of homeowners are duped by the same kinds of con artists that plague every sector of our lives. Why do people succumb to roofing scams?

  • Fear of unseen damage
  • A false sense of urgency
  • A naive hope to save money
  • The belief that they will be reimbursed for repairs

A good salesperson can convince all but the most skeptical. Most con artists are GREAT salesmen; too bad they don’t work for honest companies instead of preying on the unwary. Here are some typical scams you might encounter:

Storm chasers

In states like Texas, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Georgia damage from high winds and hailstorms can indeed destroy roofs. Scammers follow the storms seeking victims. David Colmans, executive director of the Georgia Insurance Information Service, explains:

“A doorknob hanger tells the homeowner that recent catastrophic hail and windstorms struck the area and the home may have severe damage from the storms. The hanger goes on to report ‘insurance companies are compensating.’ Also, ‘most homeowners are unaware of the storm damage on their roof.’ Here’s the kicker: The roofer or construction company offers a ‘free roof inspection and property inspection for storm damage and insurance compensation.’

There’s a toll-free number to call ‘today for your free roof inspection.'” (source: http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2009/may/01/inside-insurance-hail-damage-roof-scams/)

Avoid this scam by:
Never answering a doorknob flier directly. Legitimate roofing companies will supply full contact information. If hail or winds have been strong enough to damage your roof, you’ll see similar damage in your yard and driveway.

Transient roofers

Similar to storm chasers, but for areas with no storm activity. The “salesman” might explain that he was “working in the neighborhood” and has some left-over materials. He’ll offer a free inspection, provide little in the way of ID, and quote highly-discounted prices. Cash only, of course.

Avoid this scam by: Refusing to be sucked into a high-pressure sales pitch in your driveway. Professional roofers will inspect your roof free or for a modest charge. They won’t offer discounts for cash, either.

Disreputable contractors

Roofing is a tough business. Even contractors who appear to be legit may be operating on the fringe. Here are some common “short-cuts” they might try:

Big discounts: Offered by companies with expired insurance certificates and/or uninsured work crews. This shifts ALL insurance responsibility to YOU.

Avoid this scam by: Insisting on current proof of insurance. Ask point blank if the company pays its workers by cash or by check.

Substitute shingles: The salesperson convinces you to buy a high-end shingle, but the work crew installs an inferior brand.

Avoid this scam by: Personally inspecting the wrappers on the shingles used on your roof. Compare contract language with the information on the packages. You DO have a contract, right?

Illegal Re-roof: You save big bucks by agreeing to allow a new layer of shingles added over your current roof. Before you agree –

Avoid this scam by: Checking with your local building department to see if re-roofing is allowed. Ask for a visit from the building inspector to confirm how many layers your existing roof already has. Regulations vary around the country.

Fuzzy Timing: The contractor seems unable to provide a firm start date, or to estimate how long the job will take. In extreme cases, your roof work is started, but never finished.

Avoid this scam by: Insisting upon clear contract language. Reputable firms know how busy their schedule is, and how long their crews take to complete a job of your size. Bad weather might interfere, but a good contract will address this, too.

Outrageous financing: You agree to pay on an installment plan offered by the contractor. The whole pitch focuses on your monthly payment, in hopes that you won’t notice the astronomical interest charged or the extreme length of the payment term.

Avoid this scam by: Securing your own financing. Alternatively, have your attorney review financing documents provided by the contractor.

If you want to avoid being ripped off by common roofing scams, just follow these simple steps:

* Check references and consult your local Better Business Bureau.

* Insist on a written contract and proof of insurance and appropriate licenses.

* Never agree on a large advance or murky financing.

* Don’t pay cash, or allow a roofer to begin work immediately.

Never let fear or promised money savings steer you into a roofing scam. Panic is your worst enemy, and patience your best advocate.