Storm Chasers Stay Out!

Every stormy summer, the office of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has its hands full. Many who need help with the hail-damaged roofs are checking up on contractors, calling BBB and asking for advice and tips, and others are filing complaints. This happens all over the nation at other BBBs as well. In fact, BBBs nationwide have already processed over 3,600 complaints against roofing contractors in 2012 alone.

Some contractors aren’t even roofers at all; they are scam artists who go from town-to-town, door-to-door, taking money for work and underperforming or not performing at all, then moving onto the next area before the homeowner can get their money back. These fraudsters are known as “storm chasers.”

A bill recently signed by Governor Hickenlooper (SB-38) helps provide protection for residents who hire roofing contractors. BBB hopes that its requirements will help keep storm chasers out of Colorado.  Some of the most problematic situations our office has heard about in recent years involve misleading and unethical contracts and money paid for services not rendered.

Consumers have reported to BBB heartbreaking stories of paying large sums of money upfront to get a roofing job started, only to receive nothing in return and not get their money back. The scenario usually goes like this:  a storm chasers knocks on someone’s door shortly following a hailstorm and high-pressures them into signing a contract. The contract requires a large upfront fee – if not  the homeowner’s entire insurance check – to be paid before work begins. The check is cashed immediately, the roofer never shows up and does not respond to voice mails or emails.

Senate Bill 38 is prohibits this kind of practice by requiring roofers to hold any payments made until materials have been delivered to the  residence or the majority of the work has been completed. In other words, they cannot process your payment until they’ve provided materials or service in return. Roofers are not only required to abide by this requirement, they must include it – in bold-face type – on the front of their contracts.

A 72-hour right to rescind is also now in place thanks to the bill. If a consumer signs a contract but then has their claim denied by their insurer, they have the right to inform the contractor within 72 hours (of being notified of the denial) and the contractor must provide a refund of any money paid within ten days. This also must be made clear in the company’s contract.

One more thing – have you ever seen ads for a “free roof?” Or been offered to have your deductible rebated to you? If so, the contractor probably explained that the roof ends up being “free” because they compensate you in some way for your out-of-pocket expense which is your insurance deductible. BBB has concerns with this kind of practice because it may involve misleading and exorbitant pricing in services and materials. Senate Bill 38 should help prevent this practice and the advertising that goes along with it. It indicates that contractors cannot pay, waive, or rebate the amount of the deductible or offer to do so. This also must be explained in a roofer’s contract. Similar bills with this provision have been in place in other states for some time now including Missouri and Texas.

Please note that these requirements just went into effect on June 6, 2012. Roofing companies should be immediately updating their contracts.

With that being said, what do you think of the new bill? Do you think it will help keep storm chasers out our communities? If you are a homeowner, does the new bill help you feel any more confident about having to hire a roofer? If you are an owner or employee of a roofing company, what is your perspective?

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About Megan Herrera

Megan Herrera is the Denver/Boulder BBB's public relations specialist. She has been with the BBB since 2004.