January 23, 2017

Beware of roofers scamming storm victims

Dear Consumer Ed:

My roof was damaged during a recent storm.  A roofer came to my door and, after looking at my roof, offered to replace it for $20,000. He said the company would pay my insurance deductible if I agreed to let them put a sign in my yard with their company name on it. The price seems high, but they said my insurance would cover all of it.  Do you think this is on the level?

Consumer Ed says: 

No. In Georgia, roofers are no longer allowed to pay a storm victim’s insurance deductibles.  In addition, roofers are not allowed to file claims on their customers’ behalf unless the roofer is (or employs) a licensed public adjuster to file its customers’ claims. You should be skeptical of any roof repair salesman that shows up at your door uninvited after a recent storm, let alone one that offers to pay your insurance deductible. While some door-to-door roof repairmen may be honest professionals, unfortunately, there are others that frequently take advantage of homeowners, and their insurance providers, with the promise that the new roof will be “on the house” for the homeowner.

According to organizations like the Georgia Department of Insurance, the Better Business Bureau, and the National Insurance Crime Bureau, many “storm-chasing” scammers reportedly use aggressive and misleading tactics to convince homeowners to get unnecessary repairs before heading off to the next town, sometimes without even completing the promised repairs. And by offering to cover the homeowner’s insurance deductible, the scammer is potentially implicating the homeowner in a case of insurance fraud. Typically, to account for “paying” the homeowner’s deductible, the roofer convinces the homeowner to give fake reports to the insurance company or reduces the price of the roof after the claim has already been submitted to the insurance company.  In this situation, homeowners are also at risk of receiving substandard quality of repairs, as the roofer may attempt to cut corners to account for the “good deal” that they offered the homeowner to get his or her business.

First and foremost, you should always talk to your insurance company before committing to any repairs or even allowing the roofer to inspect for any roof damage. For instance, some unscrupulous roofers have used a “free inspection” as an opportunity to cause damage to homeowners’ roofs to justify the need for repairs to both the homeowner and the insurance company, which may not have otherwise been necessary.

To better equip yourself against these types of scams, be sure to do your research on the company, in addition to other reputable companies for comparison, before hiring the business. A legitimate roofing company should be able to provide the following:

  • Local references and roofing testimonials
  • Business License
  • Workers compensation insurance
  • General liability insurance
  • Written manufacturer warranties
  • Written labor warranties

Importantly, by doing your research, you’re less likely to be lured into a situation where you are breaking the law for the sake of a “good deal.” You can report these types of situations to the Fraud Investigation Division of the Georgia Department of Insurance at oci.georgia.gov/report-suspected-fraud or by calling 404-656-2070 or 1-800-656-2298. You can also report possible scams to the Georgia Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division by filing a complaint at https://consumer.georgia.gov/consumer-services/filing-a-complaint or by calling 404-651-8600 or 1-800-869-1123. 

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