4 signs you’re falling for a roofing scam
Year after year, homeowners fall victim to roofing scams. These schemes leave trusting families short on money and stuck with a shoddy roof on their home.
Scammers typically target budget-conscious homeowners trying to manage home repairs without breaking the bank. These con-artists will often seek out neighborhoods with a high percentage of senior citizens; areas with older housing stock; and places that are prone to, or were recently hit by, major storms. They prey on people’s fears that their homes are in danger or that reputable home improvement companies are too expensive.
A scammer often does fast work with low-quality materials, or — sometimes — simply takes the money and runs.
Unethical roofers can be hard to spot, but there are some clear warning signs that should set off alarms in your head. Keep an eye out for these four types of common roofing scams.
1. Storm Chasers
Worried homeowners can be easy prey for opportunistic scammers after a big storm. Some roofers, called “storm chasers,” follow bad weather events in search of damaged roofs. They often travel door-to-door, passing out leaflets and offering to repair or replace roofs that appear damaged — or, in some cases, roofs that are not damaged at all.
That’s part of the evil of the storm chaser: he’ll convince homeowners that they can get a new roof for a huge discount (or even free!) by filing an insurance claim after a big storm. The roofer gets paid, the homeowner gets a new roof (even if it’s not needed) and the massive insurance company with billions of dollars cuts a check without blinking. Everyone wins, right?
Beware: the work done by storm chasers is often poor. The storm chaser hits a neighborhood and wants to replace as many roofs as possible for as little cost as possible and then gets the heck out of town. The lifespan of these hastily-assembled roofs may be half that of a well-constructed roof — or much less.
How to avoid this scam: First, don’t rush into anything: storm chasers will try to take advantage of your anxiety in the aftermath of a storm, insisting that work must be done quickly. Instead, take your time, ask to see insurance and references in your area, check the status of their roofer’s license, and visit the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints filed against them.
Sometimes, a storm chaser will show up at your door unannounced and mention that they’ve just finished repairing another roof nearby. He claims to have extra materials, and can offer you a special discount to do your roof, too. This is a classic scam! Chase that storm chaser off your property.
2. The Low Starting Bid
Some contractors offer you a tantalizingly low price, one that’s often far lower than any other competitor in your area. But once work begins, that price could creep up due to “unforeseen problems” and inflated material costs.
The costs of roofing materials do fluctuate, but a contractor shouldn’t attempt to increase the price for materials in the middle of your project.
Read: Roof financing options to consider for your roof replacement
How to avoid this scam: Make sure you do your research first; talk to various companies about their pricing schemes. Discuss everything with your contractor beforehand and include any possible curveballs in your contract. At Long Roofing, we give one price that includes labor and material.
3. Mystery Damage
Your roof seems like it’s in fine shape — even after a big storm. Then, one day, you have a roofer knocking at your door, claiming he just couldn’t help but notice the damage on your roof. He points out some vague damage that you can’t really see, but he claims is a big red flag; maybe he’ll even offer to take a closer look and then comes down, grim-faced, claiming it’s a real mess up there.
Some shady roofers have been known to claim there is damage to a roof when there’s none, or certainly not enough damage to justify a full roof replacement. Others have even been caught creating damage themselves! These are the people who give home improvement companies a bad name.
Read: Your home is subject to roof damage year-round: Here’s what you can do
How to avoid this scam: Don’t trust the Good Samaritan who just so happens to be driving by and spots serious damage to your roof from a moving vehicle. If you think there is something to the claim, then get a second opinion. Under no circumstances should you let a stranger on your roof, or should you sign a contract based on an out-of-the-blue, high-pressure sales approach.
4. Insurance Fraud
There are a few ways that a contractor can attempt to commit insurance fraud. One of these is by submitting two separate invoices: a lower one to the homeowner, and a more substantial invoice to the insurance company.
This is fraud, and could be prosecuted, which means trouble for you. Sometimes, a contractor will even claim that they’ll get enough money back from over-billing your insurance company to reimburse your deductible.
How to avoid this scam: Listen carefully to what they’re offering. If a contractor offers to pay your insurance deductible or offers other no-cost incentives, these can be signs of fraud.
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