Thursday, December 6, 2012

How to Protect Yourself From Being Scammed After the Next Big Hail Storm

[Published Dec. 6, 2012, in the Denver Post and in four Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

      It’s a sad fact that natural disasters bring out scammers. Here in metro Denver, our most common large-scale disaster is the hail storm. When a hail storm sweeps through your neighborhood, you can expect numerous roofing companies to solicit the job of replacing your insured roof.  Since it’s unlikely you’ll recognized the name of any one of these “door knockers,” how do you protect yourself from hiring the wrong company — a scammer?

     The state legislature recognized the extent of scamming by roofing contractors when it enacted SB 38 this year, which became effective on June 6th.  Roof Brokers, a long-established Colorado firm well known to us real estate agents, provides the following checklist for homeowners. I have added my own comments to theirs:

¨ Only accept bids from local contractors.  Google the company’s name to verify and to look for negative reports. Also find out if there have been any complaints against this company by visiting the Better Business Bureau website, www.denver.bbb.org

¨ Only accept bids with price, scope of work and materials spelled out in detail.

¨ You have 72 hours after signing a contract to cancel it in writing. Don’t sign a contract with a cancellation fee.

¨ Request five local references that the estimator personally worked with — and call them!

¨ Ask for proof of the roofer’s Worker’s Compensation & General Liability insurance. Make sure the name on the insurance certificate matches the name on the contract.

¨ Make sure the roofer pulls a building permit and schedules a final inspection.

¨ Do not pay for materials in advance of them being delivered to your property.

¨ It is illegal for a contractor to offer to pay, waive or rebate your insurance deductible. A company can pay an advertising fee (which can be equal to the deductible) if the homeowner is willing to put a yard sign up, but only after all work is completed and paid for.

¨ Never turn over insurance checks or pay any money until the job is completed.

     I suggest you call a real estate professional (such as me) for any contractor recommendation, not just roofing. You can be sure that your agent does know the names of established roofing companies (such as Roof Brokers) — ones he has used or recommended over the years.  When a contractor is recommended by me or another agent, that contractor will want to do a good job so that they get more referrals from us, not just satisfy you as a one-time customer he may never see again.

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