Q: Many homes in our area require roof repair. What advice does the BBB have for selecting a qualified roofer during this period of high demand?
A: Hundreds of homes have taken a serious beating as a result of the recent tornados and storms in the tri-state area. Sadly, when this type disaster hits, finding an accredited roofing contractor you can trust is not always easy.
Storm chasers and other door-to-door salesmen may peddle dubious deals that can cost homeowners thousands of dollars, and the Better Business Bureau recommends doing your research to avoid getting ripped off.
Every year, even without storm damage, homeowners research the trustworthiness of a roofing contractor with BBB more than 2 million times, more than any other industry. Unfortunately, last year alone, BBB received more than 7,600 complaints about roofers from unsatisfied customers.
Tornado and storm damage has taken its toll on homes across our communities in the past weeks, and the cost of repairs will be in hundreds of thousands of dollars. When storm victims are spending that kind of money, it is worth taking your time to research and find an accredited roofer you can trust.
The BBB has been receiving inquiries and complaints that out-of-state sales people are soliciting door-to-door roof repair and replacement.
A common sales tactic BBB has learned from complaints is to tell the homeowner that their roof is severely damaged -- storm related -- and that their insurance company will cover the cost. The homeowner is required to sign a contract saying that they will hire the company making the sales pitch for the job.
Unhappy homeowners then complain that they signed over the check to the roofing company and the job was never completed, was not completed on time or was poorly executed.
Consumers should contact their homeowner insurance company first for an inspection and to provide the value of coverage. Your insurance company may have recommendations for a roofer; however, BBB suggests that you solicit multiple quotes for the job.
When looking for a roofer you can trust, the BBB recommends that homeowners:
1) Start Your Search with BBB. In addition to having Business Review Reports on tens of thousands of contractors, good and bad, across the U.S., you can also rely on BBB's Accredited Business Locator to find trustworthy roofers in your area.
BBB-accredited roofers have pledged to uphold BBB's Standards for Trust and are contractually obligated to resolve all complaints filed with the BBB.
2) Vet the Contractor Carefully. Verify the business meets all requirements including being licensed, insured and bonded. In addition to the BBB Business Review Report, visit www.verify.TN.gov or www.sos.GA.gov/plb/contractors/default.htm and check license requirements for the company.
Also ask the business for references from recent jobs. Confirm whether the roofer will be subcontracting the job or relying on his own employees. We have recent complaints where a business subcontracted the job and then failed to pay for the labor.
3) Beware of storm chasers. In the wake of a storm, fly-by-night repair businesses will solicit work, often door to door, in unmarked trucks. They might require advance payment and make big promises that they will not deliver on.
4) Get at least three bids. Beware of lowball estimates that may potentially balloon over time or foreshadow shoddy work to come. Be advised that accredited roofing businesses in our area have a large work load from the storms and that you may be required to wait for labor resources to be available for your job.
5) Recognize the red flags. Beware of any contractor that uses high-pressure sales tactics or requires the full cost upfront. The BBB advises to not pay more than 25 percent in advance for materials. Also, avoid contractors that require you to get the necessary permits.
6) Make sure everything is in writing. Make sure that the full scope of the work is explained in the contract including cleanup. All verbal agreements need to be included in the written agreement. Pay close attention to the payment terms, estimated price of materials and labor, and any warranties or guarantees.
Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN, 37401-1447, or by emailing him at dflessner@ timesfreepress.com.