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Just as a law-abiding cop loves nothing more than busting a corrupt cop, reputable roofing contractors love alerting homeowners to roofing scams, especially here in Florida. That’s because roofing scammers have led to an avalanche of lawsuits that have plunged Florida into a homeowner’s insurance crisis that has forced dozens of insurance companies to fire hundreds of their employees, cancel homeowners’ policies and flee the state. Read on to learn more about how scammers try to cheat the system.
The team at Classic Roofing & Construction has been dealing with these troubling issues for 20 years. The result has been a slow-motion collapse of the insurance industries in this state. The whole mess has made it harder for homeowners to protect their homes in Florida’s volatile environment. At stake is Florida’s ability to weather natural disasters, and its reputation among homeowners as a place to live affordably and well.
“Florida is the most volatile property insurance market in the country, and it is on the verge of a collapse,” says Mark Friedlander, spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute, an industry association.
How Insurance Industries Were Backed Into a Corner
In addition to the plague of roofing scams, loopholes in state law, a string of court decisions have backed the industry into an unsustainable corner, insurers and government officials say.
It works like this: Scam contractors, sometimes called “storm chasers,” knock on homeowners’ doors offering to inspect roofs for storm damage. Unsurprisingly, these scam contractors find damages. These damages may be real, usually they are not. Often it is a swift kick to a chimney to remove bricks, or a few quick sweeps with a shingle eater, to remove large swaths of shingles and underlayment.
The scam contractor then persuades homeowners they can get a roof replacement covered by letting the contractor file the claim with the homeowners insurer. The contractor then files fraudulent damage claims. When the insurance companies refuse to pay, the contractors and their attorneys sue. Eventually, because there are so many lawsuits filed that counsel is overwhelmed, the insurance companies settle—usually for many times more than the original claim. Most of that money goes to contractors’ legal fees, in the form of “contingency fee multipliers.” Some attorneys file hundreds of such lawsuits in a single calendar year.
The result? Some homeowners get a free roof, but the rest of Florida’s homeowners end up paying for them through increased insurance rates and premiums.
Florida Roofing Scams Red Flags
Current Florida law requires that all roofing work be done by a contractor licensed to perform such work. Hiring an unlicensed contractor can result in a fine to the homeowner of up to $5,000.
Here at Classic Roofing & Construction, we would love to help you repair your home on time and on budget, with the best industry roofing warranties available. But even if you don’t want our help, we want to give you all the investigative tools to avoid being taken advantage of by scammers.
This includes breaking it down into “eye roll” scams (as in how stupid do you think I am?) or more advanced “you crafty bugger” scams.
Eye roll scammers:
- Go door-to-door looking for roof repair business, usually equipped with a laminated ID and a friendly smile.
- Accept only cash or ask for a large deposit before repairs can begin.
- Pressure you to decide on the spot to sign a contract, so you can “get on their calendar and avoid long waits for repairs.”
- Offer you a “special” rate if paid all in cash or if you immediately sign an agreement.
- Offer “leftover” roofing materials from a previous project at a discounted rate.
- Ask you, the homeowner, to “pull permits,” to get the required building permits to help the contractor save money; thereby opening the homeowner up to all liability, including workers’ injuries and meeting all building codes.
- Offer a free inspection without providing contractor licenses or any proof of insurance, including proof of contractor insurance or workers’ comp. Don’t let anyone on your roof without proof of these.
Crafty bugger scammers:
- Try to earn your business with a local P.O. Box, or no local address at all.
- Try to get you to sign a roofing contract without first having your insurance company inspect for damages first.
- Try to get you to sign an AOB (assignment of benefits) contract that relinquishes your rights and allows the contractor to make decisions on your behalf. Run don’t walk away from this scam contractor! (An AOB agreement lets the contractor collect all claim money from your insurance company; this costly claim will stay on your permanent record with all insurance companies. It could affect future claims and your ability to obtain insurance at all in the future.)
- Volunteer to pay your deductible or waive it entirely.
- Claim their company’s bookkeeping isn’t equipped to accept credit cards. (It’s likely they don’t want a paper trail leading back to them.)
- Offers a contract that calls for you to pay by the hour for roofing services.
- “Repairs” your roof by rolling used motor oil onto the shingles to imitate a new asphalt roof. With a legitimate roofing job, you will hear plenty of hammering and see new roofing materials being used.
We Want You to Avoid Florida Roofing Scams
Fraudulent contractors hurt all of us. If you have questions about your roofing repairs or replacement, let’s talk. Our certified professionals will offer you peace of mind by using the best materials, backed with a long warranty for roofing and installation.
Classic Roofing & Construction provides free estimates and easy financing for a new roof using our in-house team of craftsmen to complete installation, on time and budget. Call us at 727-329-8023 in Tampa or 239-932-5225 in Fort Myers, or schedule a free estimate.