Roofing scam Ask MetaFilter

Roofing scam Ask MetaFilter

Roofing filter. Tempting offer to replace my roof — what’s the scam?

Door-to-door man says his roofing company will walk me through a claim for hail damage. That is, they’ll inspect my roof (20 yrs old) and if they find damage, they’ll work with the insurance company to get it to pay for a new roof. In return, they get to do the job.

My cost? Nothing, since the InsCo will pay.

I’m not really so much tempted as curious. Somehow I doubt an InsCo will replace a 20-yr-old roof because it suffered hail damage. (I also doubt the roof has sustained damage. I also discovered the contractor has been in business all of a month, since the last hail.)

My theory: the roofing contractor tears off my old roof, starts a new one, has trouble collecting from the InsCo— and stops work. Leaving me wet and desperate.

But there is 1 little nagging thing. The contractor says he’ll join the InsCo inspector to assess the roof — and unless the InsCo agrees to pay for replacement, I owe nothing. What’s to lose with that?

Ever heard of this?

It might not be a scam so much as gentle fraud; if the insurance company doesn’t agree to pay, well, they didn’t inves much time. If the insurance company does pay, well, they get the business, you get a new roof, and the insurance company gets the exorbitant new premiums you will have to start paying after filing a claim on your insurance.

posted by JMOZ at 5:04 AM on September 4, 2010

Is he letting you call your agent, or will he handle that. Beware the faux inspector. Also, even if the Insco will pay to re-shingle, don’t be surprised to find there is other stuff that needs to be done. I would avoid it like the plague, but I don’t like door to door solicitation in the first place.

posted by lobstah at 5:11 AM on September 4, 2010

They won’t find hail damage — they will find some other sort which surprisingly will not be covered. And if he is up there and you are not he may well be causing that damage.

Who organises the inspector? He will probably, his mate no doubt.

This has scam written all over it, don’t do it.

Was there a hail storm? It is common for contractors to push it after such events, since the insurance companies are beset with a large number of claims and will lower their guard somewhat. There is always a deductible, but the contractor will often agree to waive it or refund it.

You may get a new roof out of this, especially if you have replacement cost coverage. Do you? Do you know?

Two other things to check: (1) Get the insurer’s coverage decision in writing. Don’t accept the contractor’s word. (2) Carefully check the contractor via Angie’s List, references, etc. Casualty events tend to flush out all kinds of marginal companies.

What’s to lose with that?

The potential catastrophe here is that this contractor who has only been in business for a month as you say has to do a competent job. If they screw it up, then you’ll have to get someone else to do it, and I don’t think your insurance company would be too happy to pay for both jobs. Not to mention that the way you’re going to find out they screwed it up when water comes pouring through your roof.

For all you know, the contractor has only been in business a month because their last business folded under a cloud of suspicion.

Also, it doesn’t seem like there’s any advantage to you here by going through with this offer. Call your insurance company or a reputable contractor and see if they’ll do a free estimate. If there is damage, see if your insurance company will pay for it. Same outcome for you, just lots more assurances.

posted by cali59 at 5:22 AM on September 4, 2010

It would take one hell of a hail storm to damage your roof. Like, golfball-sized, car-denting hail. You’d probably be able to see such damage from the ground.

Regardless, this contractor does not have any special relationship with your insurance company. He can’t perform any financial magic tricks. He’s not likely to be the best man/company for the job. At best, he’s hoping to make an easy sale by being the only contractor you talk to. At worst, he’s going to try to sell you something you don’t need, at your expense.

posted by jon1270 at 5:31 AM on September 4, 2010

The other problem is that the second the contractor begins any work of any kind it’s no longer fraud, it’s a contract dispute. So you pay 33% up front, they tear down your old roof and then claim they need another ten grand to cover unforeseen damage, and until you pay they don’t finish the job? Not fraud.

I also doubt the roof has sustained damage.

Your instinct is right here. Having seen the aftermath of the type of hailstorm jon1270 describes (leaves stripped off trees, every car in the neighborhood dented like a golf ball, plastic patio furniture smashed to pieces) I can tell you that a typical asphalt shingle roof withstands that kind of weather just fine. They are damn near indestructible by any weather short of a tornado.

So either this company is trying to scam your insurance company (with you in on the scam, since you have a pretty good idea there’s no such damage), or else they’re trying to scam you when the insurance company refuses the claim. Which I’m pretty sure they will, given the number of hail damage claims they deal with in general, and the lack of such claims for roof damage specifically. You will either get no work done, or you’ll end up paying for whatever they do.

posted by FishBike at 7:10 AM on September 4, 2010

This offer may or may not be a scam, but I have observed that many, many scammers begin by asking their victims to do something immoral in exchange for a reward.

I’m in this process right now. Here’s how it works. Over the past couple of months we had two hail storms. The company that approached me is a well established firm (I did the homework on this) that does roofs, windows, siding, etc.

When there is a storm in an area, they take advantage of an opportunity. There is no way I would have noticed hail damage (it doesn’t need to be that significant to fall under your insurance coverage), but both the rep from the roofing company AND the engineer sent out by the insurance company (I initiated the claim and made the appointment with the engineer) identified damage due to hail, pointed it out to me (including significant damage on downspouts, trim, and wooden deck). I wouldn’t have even seen it. But, with the use of some high power lights to cause shadows, the dings in the trim and downspouts were very evident.

This is what you carry insurance for. The damage doesn’t need to be catastrophic, it can be merely cosmetic.

The inspection was done by the insurance company engineer a couple of weeks ago, I should be hearing in the next few days if they are considering it as a claim.

Did the damage happen during the past month’s storm? Who knows, they did check to see if the dings impacted on the natural oxidation of the paint on the trim. Will they cover it either way? Perhaps.

I also asked the Insurance company claims adjuster about the possibility of fraud when I placed the claim, I was up-front with how it came to be that I was contacting him. His statement was that there are shady operators out there, but the practice of canvassing a neighborhood after a storm isn’t the indicator of that, like any business, roofing companies are seeking work, and this is one of the ways they find it. His take was that, if I thought there was a possibility of a damage claim, it was well within my rights to get their opinion on that.

The note above about getting everything in writing is a good one, as is being careful not to let someone up-sell you with additional work that won’t be covered.

Do your homework, check out the company’s reputation, inspect other work they’ve done.

Here’s how I would do it if I were the roofing company:

Well sir, we didn’t see any serious hail damage, but it looks like your roof is almost worn out. You’ve got a few issues with missing shingles, and most of the rest of them are coming off too. You also need your tuckpointing redone; when was the last time you had that looked at? I saw you had a TV antenna installed up there, and it looks like when they put that in they didn’t use the right bracket, which means it’s been shifting around every time there’s a strong breeze, and it’s pulling your shingles off as well. You’re gonna need, at minimum, a new roof, plus most of your tuckpointing redone, otherwise next time you get a serious storm your house is gonna be full of water. Now, fortunately we do tuckpointing as well, so we can set up a package deal that’s gonna be a lot cheaper than what you’d pay elsewhere.

posted by Slinga at 8:01 AM on September 4, 2010

Have you talked to a well-established roofing company? Many companies offer free quotes, and comparison shopping is a good way to avoid being scammed.

posted by annsunny at 9:14 AM on September 4, 2010

Roofing Scams — How to Avoid Storm Chasers and Con Men. Roofing scams are not entirely uncommon, and are more frequent after a high wind or hail storm where communities receive significant roof damage. Particularly at risk are the elderly and handicapped who may have more trouble assessing the damage themselves. That means it is important to get background checks on your roofing contractors, to see if they are legitimate contractors as well as to assess the quality of their work. [more. ]. posted by ericb at 9:24 AM on September 4, 2010

I see you are in Georgia.

Residents Warned About Possible Roofing Scam. The Better Business Bureau is warning residents of a possible scam targeting individuals whose homes have sustained storm damage.

Michelle Mason, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau of North Alabama, said in the past few weeks her office has received complaints regarding American Shingle Co.

“This company is supposed to be headquartered in the Atlanta area, and between 2007-10 they opened up 24 different locations in cities where residents had suffered severe storm damage,” Mason said. “Company employees were going door to door offering free roof inspections and offering to work with the individual’s insurance company to get the roofing jobs approved.”

Mason said the company would not schedule the roof repairs to be done until the customer had paid a part or all of the insurance money to the roofing company.

“After they got the payment, the company told the customers that it would be four to six weeks before the job would be done,” Mason said. “There are some people in the Athens area who were told this back in April and May and still there hasn’t been any work started.”

She said recent signs appeared at the American Shingle office in Huntsville stating the company had closed. A voice recording at the headquarters said the business was closed while it was relocating. Mason said the office was supposed to reopen Aug. 16, but has not.

“This is a little different than some of the scams we hear about, but to me this is just another version of the home improvement scams that routinely go through the region,” Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing said. “The biggest difference is the company is taking the insurance money instead of taking it from the individual.

“But people need to be aware of this, that it is happening because too often people tend to fall prey for these kinds of scams,” he said.

Mason said more than 300 complaints nationwide have been received by BBBs concerning American Shingle. posted by ericb at 9:27 AM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites ]

I’ve had two roofs totalled because of hail damage. After the more recent hailstorm, there were a few roofing companies making the rounds in my neighborhood. I’m not sure if they were running a scam or just being aggressive about generating new business. As I’ve found, it’s quite possible that your insurance company will pay out more than a roofer will charge you to re-roof the house, and these guys might want to step in and get all that money before you see it (not sure how that would work though).

It’s reasonable to get your roof inspected after a serious hailstorm. After the most recent one, I had impact-resistant shingles installed.

Oh, and when I say inspected, I mean inspected by an insurance adjuster.

When my roof was damaged by high winds a few months ago, I contacted the insurance agency first. They sent out a claims adjuster who went up on the roof and found additional damage.

When I wanted to find a roofing contractor, I hit the phone book, the Better Business Bureau, Google, and people I knew with new roofs. I eliminated most the contractors who weren’t graded by the BBB, read the complaints on Google, and called three contractors.

I hired the local contractor who went on the roof, looked around, then wrote up a bid. I most emphatically didn’t hire the out of town contractor who didn’t bother to go up on the roof, but wrote a bid anyway.

In your place, I wouldn’t hire someone who rang my doorbell without doing at least some research on the contractor first. Is your drop by contractor local? Can he show you roofs he’s worked on in your area? Chances are that you can get other bids before you agree to go with anyone.

Good luck!

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