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Beware of These Common Roof Scams...

Posted on 12 February, 2014 at 11:47
Most of you may have seen "Consumer Watch" type specials on your nightly newscast reporting sad accounts of people- especially the elderly- who fell victim to some of these roof scams. They're usually followed with warnings of several age-old scams like "The door-to-door Salesman", "Gypsy Roofers", "Storm Chasers" or "Insurance Fraud Schemes". To be sure, those are all scams we should all be aware of - But there are also a few lesser known and sneaky tactics I've seen perpetrated even by some unscrupulous employees of seemingly legitimate roofing companies! I'll try to give a rundown of most of these well known and little known scams that I've run into during the 40 years I've done this work. Even so, I'm always on the look-out for levels of shoddiness so if any of you wish to comment on any I might have missed, feel free to add it below:
Gypsy Roofers & Storm Chasers:
Out of all the roof scams, the out-of-town storm chasers are the most publicized, yet people all across the country still fall victim to them. Also known as roofing gypsies, these roofers travel around the country following the paths of storms looking for homeowners to exploit. These chasers pay attention to areas with extreme weather readings and they know what insurance companies will allow for roof replacement in those areas.
The way the scam works is the storm chasers will blanket an area hit by hail or wind damage and look for unsuspecting homeowners. They’ll pass out leaflets and even show up unannounced, offer free inspections.
They usually know how the insurance companies work, and based on the square footage of the roof, they can figure out how much it will cost to put on a cheap new roof. The homeowner gets burned because the storm chaser only does the bare minimum to replace the roof, but doesn’t address any other problems, or restore the roof to its original condition. The homeowner is then left with a poorly constructed roof, and the fraudulent company that was once so ready to help has vanished. The storm chasers have no incentive to produce high quality work, and there’s really no way for them to be held accountable because they will be gone by the time a problem arises.
Sadly, I've been called out to many of these leaking roofs- usually shingles- that carried a 20-30year warranty, yet failed within 5 or 6 years. The homeowner is often has to foot the bill for removal and full replacement, since the insurance company will refuse to pay out a 2nd claim in so short a time.
Insurance Frauds & Paid Deductible Promises:
This is the favorite in the world of scamming because homeowners don’t realize it’s a scam and they go along with it so easily. This scam is used by out of state roofers, so-called roofers and even some legitimate local roofing companies and that’s why you need to know who you can trust. The scam goes just like this: The scamming roofer/sells rep will  tell you that you don’t have to pay your insurance deductible. They'll say they have a way around it by:
  • Paying you X amount to place a sign in your yard and call it an advertising fee
  • They just won’t collect the final payment at the end of the job
  • They will let you keep the depreciation when the insurance company sends it.
In any case, insurance fraud is a felony! But the scammer is right about one thing, they do have a way around it, for them not you. The homeowner is made out to be the fall guy for the person who is going to take the rap, pay the fines and/or do the time.
Homeowners are being tricked into committing felony crimes and this could affect you and the people you care about. It sounds outrageous that the simple act of getting your roof repaired or replaced could find you committing insurance fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit fraud. But it is happening every day in Tucson & across the U.S.
Phantom or Unneeded Work:
I've been called out to many homes, especially the past few years, where previous "contractors" or handymen have given the owner a list of work needed that is either unfounded or unheard of. One of the strangest making the rounds lately is a shingle roof in need of "caulking" (A correctly installed shingle roof should never need to be caulked). There are many other false claims that seem legitimate but turn out to be hoaxes. Of course, no matter what type of roof you may have, you're not immune to this type of scam.
In many cases, the "contractor" performing the inspection will accidentally or even purposely cause the damage where repairs are then actually needed. I've been on many tile roofs where its evident that an unqualified inspector didn't know how to walk on them and cracked entire rows or sections of tiles. I've also seen numerous flat roofs with punctures or broken areas along parapets where someone obviously stepped. Then there are those with suspicious gouges or knife marks made to create leaks that will need to be repaired.
Short-cuts & Short-shifts:
Some scams are much harder to detect, mainly because one needs to be aware of the proper installation procedures in order to spot them. A few examples are:
  Shingle Roofs- Staples and staple guns are much less costly than nails & nail guns but are much more prone to wind-lift during storms and are NOT recommended by roofing product manufacturers. Also, leaving extra reveal on the shingles (5" to-5-5/8" is recommended) can save the installer time and money but cost the homeowner valuable wear time on his/her roof. I recently inspected a 30yr shingled roof where installers had left over one extra inch of reveal per row, creating leak issues after only 2 years! The installers of course, were nowhere to be found.
  Tile Roofs- An unscrupulous roofer can save time and money by using inferior base materials or omitting required batt strips and flashings, causing many resulting headaches down the road. These repairs can be extremely costly.
  Flat Roofs- On repairs especially, I've seen where repairmen have covered over problem areas rather than take the time do cut them out in order to perform a proper repair, especially at scuppers and flashing points. Resulting ponding and slow leaks can be much more devastating than the original problem.
There are many more examples I could give but suffice it to say, short cuts are never a good thing, especially on something as critical as your roof!   
Bait & Switch Schemes:
These are also areas where one needs to pay very close attention. For example, 20 year and 25 year shingles look almost exactly alike to the unsuspecting eye, as do 30, 40 & 50 year shingles. The same with flat roof materials, on the surface at least. Whether its granulated or smooth surfaced, its not always easy to tell if its the actual material that was paid for. I recently worked on a roof where the homeowner was told a heavy "SBS" material was installed. What I found was a similar looking mineral cap sheet- about a third of the price and a fourth of the life. The installer was nowhere to be found, of course. Inferior tile underlayments are even harder to detect after installation, as no-one wants to pull up tiles just to verify the correct ones were used.  
Rookie Mistakes by Unqualified Help:
The last one I'll touch on may be the easiest for the homeowner to detect. That is, the contractor who sells himself on experience, yet leaves inexperienced and sometimes clueless cheap labor to do the job- while he's out selling to more unsuspecting victims. The results are pretty obvious and can be quite devastating. If I'm not doing the actual work, the man I leave in charge will have over 15yrs experience and his qualifications are obvious by his ability to do the work or answer any question the owner has.

As I mentioned at the outset, these are just a few examples of roof scams being perpetrated every day. In fact, there are entire websites dedicated to exposing these and numerous others.  The bottom line for the homeowner is get to know your contractor - licensed or otherwise. I've worked for licensed contractors that I can only describe as crooks, yet some are actually protected by that very license! The best measure is to get legitimate and verifiable references as well as to investigate any workmanship complaints against your potential contractor. I also welcome a second or 3rd estimate if that makes the client feel more comfortable and I never, EVER use hard sell tactics. Qualified and legitimate contractors don't need them.
Please try your best to avoid getting burned by doing your homework and asking for real, local referrals. A scammer will run from any investigative work you might do!

Categories: Roof Repair Tips

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