Because the market for construction can fluctuate depending on weather conditions, time of year, and area; there is room for bogus contractors to scam homeowners and businesses of thousands of dollars. Construction can be a touch and go business for many trying to find work which can lead to small construction individuals or companies to try scamming people. While the license requirements vary by state, you must still be cautious when picking a contractor for any kind of home improvement work. This is especially true when there has been a disaster of any kind or size. Thankfully there are signs that are commonly used by these type of contractors that you can be watchful for to avoid being scammed. Here is a list of some scams that should give you a red flag.
- No contact information, refuse referrals, and cannot show you proof of license of insurance coverage. All companies doing business will have a business card with contact information on it. If they do not have anything but a cell phone number to give you, they probably don’t have a license to do business. Making up anything to keep from providing you with insurance proof and license is another big flag for the same reason, not allowed to do business. They should be registered with the state as a business entity.
- Door to door selling is typically not done for residents but some do try to go door to door offering you a free roof. What they do is try to get your roof covered by insurance and either create the damage or more damage to make sure insurance will cover it or use photos from another roof saying that there is damage.
- We will take care of the insurance for you. This can also follow along with number 2. If a contractor says they will deal with the insurance for you and leaves you out of the loop or also contacts your insurance in behalf of you initially, this can be a red flag too. When they tell you let them take care of it all they can try many things to get the insurance pay more but only fill you in on what they want to make more money. Plus you should get a scope of work from the insurance company to you stating what they are covering and for how much. Another part that can come into this is them offering to pay the deductible for you. Homeowners are the ones responsible for their deductible. Them offering to pay it for you could mean they are going for insurance fraud and some use the cheapest and sometimes even used materials where you end up replacing that roof in 3-6 years. This can also apply to what many call storm chasers using cheap materials and do poor workmanship leaving the roof to need replaced again in 3-7 years and that they do not always address every thing that needs repaired or replaced.
- Wants to be paid in cash only. Most contractors prefer check as payment and will accept cash but they do not require cash. Also some companies do get the ability to take a credit card payment, but you should not do this over the phone, make a copy or write down your card info for them to take. If they do offer this either in the office in front of you or with new technology some have a card machine that can be attached to a device or take with them.
- Scare tactics and pressuring. Some contractors will try to scare you into signing with them or adding additional work that you may not need like making up a new code that must be followed. Always get a second opinion or contact the appropriate agency to find out yourself. The pressuring you to sign is saying they will give you this discount only if you sign today or telling you prices will go up. Roofing contractors have no need to do this, while some may give you a deal or discount the offer doesn't stand for just right then in that moment and then disappears. These two techniques are used a lot in sales in general.
- You should be able to talk to your roofing contractor about the work that needs done or with any questions. If they are too vague, avoiding the questions your asking, or avoiding answering them , you might want to do a background on them. Most all roofing contractors use roofing terms and will answer the questions you have and go over the scope of work with you. If you just get the feeling they do not know what they are talking about, they may not. Do your research. If they can't answer your question honestly, they should at least say let me find out but the bottom line is do not hire someone who doesn't know about roofing.
- Wanting too much up front can be a big sign they may not be a reputable contractor. In general for residential projects the company will ask for 10-15% down to get started on your project. This is for the ordering of materials needed. If they ask for half for a project $10,000 andunder, this can sometimes lead to taking the money and disappearing or do part of the work then disappear or does poor work because you have already paid so much upfront. Always make sure to write a check and get a receipt. Big projects can sometimes require a little more up front but they shouldn’t be over 1/3 of the cost.
- No contract. Roofing companies will give you a proposal of how much your project will cost and sometimes it’s a budget and after discussing with you will write an official contract for you and them to sign. This should have detail information and leave no room for additional charges. If a contractor shows up and looks at you house and then tells you it’ll be $6,000. No contract and no time to determine the cost of your project. Guess what? That leads to them charging you more because you have no contract for what they are actually doing. The contract will have the entire scope of work being completed and the total price of your project. If there is a possibility for additional charge like decking that may be rotten, there should be a clause stating so. No contract does not bind them or you and if having to do a lawsuit, its they said and we said.
- Another scam that is big is low balling on the price. When bidding against other competitors especially they give you the lowest price and then as the work begins tell you this happened or we found this and the price goes up. This can also happen with a contract that is not clear in the wording. They can even use that the materials cost went up or dosomething like the next scam below.
- Worsening damages or creating the damages. This is done sometimes too where the damage was not as bad as it was before they started working on your roof or they create damage either to try and get more money out of you or your insurance. A reputable contractor will know where to look for damage and majority of the time find it before starting work. The only thing that is normally hard to tell in some cases is how much bad wood can be under the shingles or other roof materials. But the contractor will address that with you and will be in your contract.
Nowadays most will report when they have been scammed and by who or will rate that company on some kind of site like Angie’s List, or google reviews and so on. This can make it a little easier to check out that company before you decide to sign, especially in larger cities where there can be many contractors. Smaller towns usually word of mouth gets around and you can feel assure you are signing with a trusted company. If it happens to be a new company, be sure to remember to ask for proof of insurance, license, contact info and any other paperwork. Being new is not always a sign that they are a bad contractor but you do want to check into them and see that they have experience in that project as well. They should be able to offer you some business references and work history showing their experience in that work. Remember to be cautious on signing a contract just because it is the cheapest and checking the wording of the contract and ask questions.