Buyer beware of the “Free Roof” approach by storm chasers

Bad Free Roof Ads - LER - www.lermn

We have received many calls from homeowners over the years who tell us a disturbing, yet common story.  They tell us a roofer knocked on their door, told them they have storm damage to their roof and they could be entitled to a new roof paid for by their insurance company. Many of these homeowners had roofs older than 10+yrs so the prospect of a “free” new roof sounds wonderful, because ultimately, they already know they are nearing the time to replace their roof. The “storm chasing” roofers say things like “it’s a no brainer” and “why would you want to pay $10k out of pocket for a new roof when I can help you get your insurance company to pay for a new roof with NO money out of your pocket?”

The majority of the insurance companies in Minnesota have caught on to this trick being played by  “storm chasing” roofers. Here’s what really happens:  They convince a homeowner there is storm damage to their roof and to file a claim for what really is non-existent storm damage. The insurance company sends out an insurance adjuster to inspect your property for storm damage. Insurance adjusters are trained to find damage, and when they don’t find any actual damage caused by a storm, they will deny your claim. Next you will receive a denial letter from your insurance company. Now your insurance company knows you have an old roof and they may also include a letter stating that you must replace your roof, at your expense, because it’s old and in bad shape through natural wear and tear.  This will most likely include a “deadline”. If you don’t repair or replace your old roof, your insurance company can consider the roof to be uninsurable and deny future legitimate claims.  The insurance company could also cancel your coverage, thus making it difficult and expensive to find new homeowners coverage.  Most “storm chasing” roofers will never tell you this because they know you’d never gamble with the chance of a “free roof” knowing it can backfire into you having to replace your roof, not with insurance proceeds, but with money out of your own bank account.

Many “storm chasing” roofers will claim they haven’t seen a single roof in your area without storm damage. This is often false and easy to bust by visiting the official NOAA storm reports of storm damage in your area (click here to see actual storm reports). The reason these “storm chasing” roofers love old roofs is because they think they can convince the insurance adjuster to pay for a new one because of the age of the roof, and sometimes the condition. If the insurance company doesn’t agree, no sweat off their back, they move along to the next home/town/state. Insurance companies don’t pay out claims for normal wear and tear to a roof, or even the age or condition of the roof. They only pay for legitimate storm damaged roofs.

Spring time is here and “storm chasing” roofers will be knocking on every door with an old roof offering the promise of getting your insurance company to pay for a new roof. Again, “Free Roof” will be their promise and they might even tell you “no money out of your pocket” and you will not have to pay your deductible (which is illegal and considered insurance fraud). But remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch and buyer beware.

We have been in the roofing business for over 15 years. We’ve worked with hundreds of homeowners and their insurance company’s on legitimate storm related claims. Our goal is to use our expertise to help you, the homeowner. We’ve taken an ethical stand that we will not put homeowners in a bad situation. If you’ve been approached by a “storm chaser”, give us a call for a second opinion. We’re not afraid to “turn down business” when we know it’s the right thing to do!

Advertisements

Realities of a hail storm

2013 MN Hail Storm            Eden Prairie Hail Damage

The Minneapolis/St. Paul southern metro was recently pounded by a large hail storm. Reports had hail stones ranging from quarter sized all the way up to golf ball sized and a little bigger. Some estimates are stating that 50,000+ roofs were damaged and might need replacing.

So here are a couple realities of the aftermath from a hail storm:

– Storm chasers are out full force. They are knocking on your front door or are calling you at night. They are trying to get you to sign a “subject to” or “agreement” and will meet with your adjuster on your behalf. A “subject to” or an “agreement” IS a signed contract and you are LOCKED into that contract after your adjuster approves the repairs of any damaged items. Expect a 25% cancellation fee if you try to back out of the contract after your claim is approved.

– Storm chasers often hire anybody with a pulse to knock on your front door or call you at home. These new hires often have little to no experience in either the roofing business or handling insurance claims for homeowners.

– Storm chasers from out of state will often work under a local contractor’s building license. This is illegal but rarely enforced. Be careful of contractors with out of state license plates as most will tell you that they are local or the company they represent is local, which is really the half truth!

– Many local contractors will often over sell the storm by signing too many customers and then not have the ability to get all of the repairs done in a timely fashion. Some contractors often hire new “crews” to help with the work load. These new “crews” often don’t care about the customer or contractor they are working for, which leads to mistakes, which could be costly to YOU.

– Rebating or free deductibles are illegal. Yard sign fees, upgrades, or any other form of rebating your deductible is illegal and is considered insurance fraud. Most shady contractors only care about fast cash and will offer everything but the kitchen sink in order to get your signature. If something is too good to be true than it normally is. Insurance companies must receive a final invoice from your contractor in order for your insurance co. to release any depreciation or holdback (2nd check). Rebating deductibles usually involves a contractor submitting a false invoice to the insurance company so that all depreciation is paid. The law doesn’t protect homeowners who claim that they didn’t know that rebating deductibles was illegal. Ignorance of the law does not protect you.

Be careful who you choose. Here are a couple tips on where you can find a trustworthy contractor:

  1. Ask your friends, family and neighbors. Word of mouth is the best referral you can receive.
  2. Look in your local church or community bulletin or newsletter. Lots of local contractors advertise where they interact.
  3. Search the Web, or more specifically HomeAdvisor.com, Houzz.com or AngiesList.com. Here is where you can see online references from current customers like yourself.
  4. Go to BNIMN.com. This is a local business referral network in your own backyard. Search for your city and then find whatever business you are looking for.
  5. Verify every contractor by going to https://secure.doli.state.mn.us/lookup/licensing.aspx. This is the Minnesota Dept of Labor website and you can verify if the contractor’s license and insurance is up to date.

Storm Season is approaching, be ready for the aftermath

As storm season approaches, so do the storm chasers. A majority of roofing contractors in the state of MN and throughout the country live and die with storm damage. Without homeowners filing claims, a majority of these companies would fail to exist. Most have no concept of helping a homeowner through the traditional retail method.

I am sure most of you have had someone knock on your door about the possibility of having storm damage to your home. Ten years ago you could breath after a storm rolled through knowing that in the near future and when you were ready that you would have to find a roofer to take a look at your property. Now its like a circus with every roof jockey out knocking doors within 5-10 minutes after a storm rolls through. These storm chasers know that a majority of people will sign with the first company that knocks on their door. These stormers hope that the homeowner will not check to see if the roofer has the necessary tools to complete the job. In a lot of cases these stomers will promise free incentives if the homeowner signs on the front steps; such as free deductibles, extra work at no cost, gift card or even free flat screen TV (all of which are illegal and are considered insurance fraud).

So what should a homeowner do if their property is hit by a storm.

#1- Breath. Unless your home is hit with softball size hail with 60mph winds, then most of the damage will be cosmetic, meaning that you have time. Don’t sign with the first guy that knocks on your door. Ask around and find a contractor that has been used by a family member or friend.

#2- Call a reputable contractor, preferably one that was referred. Have them come out and inspect your property before filling a claim. Make sure to find someone that has worked with homeowner insurance claims before as to not waste everyone’s time by having the insurance company out if there is no damage.

#3- Call your insurance agent or company. A lot of agents have indirect ties with contractors. Some agents might be a part of a business networking group which has a contractor in the group. That agent could refer the contractor to one of their clients knowing that this contractor is fair, honest and up-front. This helps everyone involved because it can save time if there is no damage.

#4-  Keep your eyes open. You will know which neighbors signed 5 minutes after the storm because they are the first ones to get their roofs replaced. Watch as your neighbors roof is being replaced and ask these questions: Are the roofers keeping a clean job site, are they using good quality materials, are they protecting the landscaping, are they keeping safe by adhering to OSHA standards, is the salesman, project manager or owner present? Also keep in mind on how long job takes. Most roofs can be completed in one day. If a job is taking more than one day, then either the crew is inexperienced, unqualified or undermanned. Sometimes contractors will take a 8 man crew and break them into two 4 man crews because they are too busy and can’t keep up. This is not good for you since the your job will take longer and could expose your roof to Mother Nature.

#5- Read the contract. Make sure that you understand what you are signing. Don’t be pressured into signing something the first time or going with the first agreement. Make sure the contract has a local address on it and local phone number (make sure it’s not a pre-paid number used by stormers). Make sure there is a clear dollar amount for the work being completed and a schedule of payments. Sometimes there are supplements that are needed because the insurance company missed or couldn’t see something on the initial inspection. Make sure that the contract has something regarding supplements and that they are only paid to the contractor if the homeowner is reimbursed by the insurance company. The only thing that should be paid out of pocket is the deductible and any kind of upgrades or additional work.

#6- Get a lien waiver. After the job is complete and immediately after the final check is given to the contractor, make sure to get a signed lien waiver. Anyone that furnishes materials or labor can put a lien on your home if they are not paid. Just because you paid the total contract amount doesn’t guarantee that the contractor paid his bills. By receiving a lien waiver, the contractor certifies that all labor and materials have been paid and that no one can come back to you for any outstanding bills. There was a recent story in Illinois where multiple homeowners had liens placed on their homes by the local material supplier. The contractor that completed the work never paid for the materials and since the homeowners hadn’t received a lien waiver the homeowners were legally responsible for the outstanding material invoices.

#7- Ask questions. When a contractor comes to your house make sure to ask how long they have been in business. Ask how long they personally have been a part of that said company. Ask about their knowledge and training and how many years they have been in the business. Make sure they are licensed and that their crew members have their own insurance and workman’s comp. Ask about extended warranties and if they are certified with the shingle manufacturer. Make sure the contractor pulls the necessary permits. If you feel pressured by the contractor then it might be time to call someone else. If you feel like the person is nice but doesn’t really know what they are talking about then its time to call someone else. If you someone tells you that getting your insurance company to pay for a new roof is “guaranteed, slam dunk, or in the bag” please be cautious. Nothing is ever guaranteed and most times a contractor will tell you that just to get the claim filed, regardless if there is damage or not.

Hopefully these pointers come in handy. The worst thing for us is getting called out to someone’s home where they had been ripped off and are looking for help. There are a lot of over qualified contractors but there are also a lot of bad contractors. Your home is a huge investment and nothing should be done to your home while standing on the front steps. Take your time and find the perfect fit. If you would like help with your insurance claim or any other project, then please feel free to give us a call @ 763.238.1632 or email at info@lermn.com

 

IMG_0444