Beware of Door-to-Door Scams
It's monsoon season and the door-knockers are at it again. At Rosie on the House we've heard recent reports from Sun City homeowners that salesmen for roofing companies ring their doorbells and use high-pressure tactics to get them to sign up for a reroofing job. Sometimes they even go up on the roofs of houses, without permission, to "inspect the roof" and find the damage.
Typically, an insurance company in Sun City told us, a salesman knocks on the door and tells homeowners their roof is in really bad shape, but they can get a new roof for only the amount of their insurance deductible – maybe $1,000 or so. Not only that, but he tells the homeowners that a neighbor down the street has signed up for the same kind of a great deal.
All they need to do, according to the salesman, is sign a contract with a roofing company for whatever the roof costs, give him a deposit, and then he will take care of notifying the insurance company and getting every dollar, except for the deductible, reimbursed.
Homeowners are told they can get a new roof for almost no money at all, but they are not told who the roofer will be. They can be unlicensed; licensed but with bad complaints on their records; new to the area and unlikely to stay in business very long; or unlikely to provide warranties for their work.
Possibly the roofs really do need work or were damaged in a microburst that hit the area way back in July 2017, one Phoenix insurer said. She is working on about 20 cases filed involving damage that may have happened in that storm last year.
But once a homeowner signs a contract with one of these roaming salespeople, it might become difficult to get out of it. Some contracts don't even list a dollar amount.
The insurer said that one homeowner had a lien placed on his house because a roofing contractor claimed he wasn't paid in full. Sometimes contractors perform upgrades that the insurance company won't cover.
Often the sales people are not actually employed by the contractors, but are acting as sales "consultants," according to insurers. The sales people work on commissions, so they can be very pushy.
Jeff Fleetham, director of the Arizona State Registrar of Contractors, that publishes lists of contractors licensed by the state, said that the state cannot stop people from going door-to-door to sell services, "but obviously, that's not the way to find a contractor."
"Don't let someone come in the house to fix something at your house if you didn't call them first and check them out," he said. "Before you let someone in, check with the registrar online or by phone for the name of the contractor. If they're not registered, don't hire them."
The state also lists the number of complaints filed against a contractor but doesn't list complaints on unlicensed contractors.
Here are other recommendations to follow regarding any transaction involving home repairs for damage that insurance might cover:
1 | Call your insurance company first
If your house is damaged in a storm or accident, call your insurance company first to find out what to do. The company may give you names of licensed contractors who will come out to look at your house and give you estimates.
Beware of a sales person who says he or she will contact your insurance company for you or someone who asks you to call your insurer while the sales person is on your premises. Sometimes the sales person even wants you to use your phone to call the insurer – this is a red flag.
2 | Do not pay immediately
Don't pay anyone immediately to fix damage, aside from taking temporary action to keep problems from getting worse – like covering the roof with a tarp or repairing a broken pipe.
3 | Use the proper process
After opening a claim with the insurance company and getting damage estimates, that's when the insurance company will send out an adjuster to decide what the insurance company will pay.
4 | Signs of a void contract
Beware if a sales person does not put a dollar amount on a contract. A contract is not valid if the only dollar amount on it is your deductible.
5 | You have 3 days to get out of a contract
Don't sign a contract for repairs until you've thought about it a while. Remember, you have only three days to get out of a contract if you change your mind. Don't write a check in the name of the door knocker who promises to talk to the insurance company.
6 | Don't let scammers in your home
Don't let any previously unknown person into your house to talk about repairs or improvements. Tell them to leave a card under the door mat or in the door and look at it later. Always check out the name with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors before calling back.
Director Fleetham also advised homeowners who feel threatened by sales people to call the police. To file a complaint or for more information on the Registrar of Contractors, check out their website at ROC.AZ.gov
At RosieOnTheHouse.com we also have more information on hiring contractors of any kind How To Hire A Contractor Consumer Guide
and information on hiring roofers Roofing Consumer Guide.
Four questions to ask a roofing contractor
1 | Do you use builder grade shingles or architectural asphalt shingles?
There are at least five high-quality manufacturers of shingles. Builder grade shingles are often inexpensive low-grade versions and will last about 20 years. Architectural grade shingles – which have an extra layer of asphalt on the bottom - can last about 40 years.
2 | Do you use seconds?
Seconds are shingles that may be rejected by a company because the color is slightly different or because they have minor flaws or because packages are mislabeled. They will cost less than shingles that meet company standards. But in a major purchase like a new roof, you don't want second-best. You don't want blemished shingles used on your house.
3 | Who will provide repairs under a warranty for the roof?
Does the contractor provide a separate warranty for his labor beyond the manufacturer's warranty on the product? You want to know exactly who to call if problems occur after the roof is finished.
4 | What is the time frame for installing the roof?
You're entitled to have a written schedule of the various steps that will be taken to do your roof and how long they will take.
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