It’s summer, the best time of year for installing a new roof. But if you’ve never taken on the challenge of hiring roofing contractors before, it’s very important that you educate yourself before you start writing any checks. Numerous homeowners become the victims of roofing scams every year, and you don’t want to be among them. Here are three of the most common scams you should be on the lookout for this summer, as well as some advice on how to protect yourself from being exploited:
- The Disappearing Down Payment: In this scam, a company will offer a low bid for installing a new roof and ask for a down payment, promising to deliver supplies and get started on the work in the near future. But once you hand over the down payment, the company is never heard from again.
How to Protect Yourself: If at all possible, don’t give anyone money until supplies have actually been delivered to your house. Also make sure that you’re paying with a method that can be traced, and not by cash or cashier’s check. Many of these disreputable companies will set up websites and phones so that you can check on them before making a payment, so you’ll need to dig a little deeper, too. The Better Business Bureau and state business associations are great resources when you’re looking at a company’s background.
- The Storm Chaser: These companies learn where in the country there has been weather damage, then go state to state (often via door-to-door salesmen) offering very low bids on new roofs. Unlike the previous scam, this one generally does involve actually installing a new roof. But the roof will be very poorly constructed, lasting only five years or so, instead of the decades a properly installed roof will.
How to Protect Yourself: Any company that sends salesmen to your door deserves a little extra scrutiny. Look to make sure that the company is registered and licensed in the state, and beware any company that has only a P.O. box listed, rather than a physical address. Ask for local references going back at least a few years.
- The Fluctuating Bid: This scam normally works because homeowners don’t know very much about the roofing industry. A contractor will offer a very low bid, but start to adjust the final price based on “increased price of roofing materials” or “unforeseen damage.” The contractor may even remove the old roof and then threaten to leave it that way if the homeowner doesn’t cough up more cash.
How to Protect Yourself: Read your contract carefully to make sure it doesn’t allow for this kind of fluctuation. Although the prices of materials do change, manufacturers give contractors weeks of advance notice, meaning that cost should never be a surprise passed on to the homeowner. A contract should also detail what will happen should damage be uncovered in the course of taking off the old roof.
How else can homeowners in need of new roofs or roofing repairs protect themselves from scams? Share your thoughts in the comments.