Of all the home improvement services offered to homeowners, roofing is prone to the most scams.
There's more than one way for a scam artist to leave unsuspecting homeowners in the dust. The most common examples include...
- Doing a poor job assembling the roof, whether it be with shotty, inexperienced craftsmanship or with cheap materials
- Taking a large personal or insurance check (or asking for cash) upfront and disappearing without doing any work
However, if you don't know what to look for up front—and the precautions to take to protect yourself—you won't realize you're being scammed until it's too late.
We've outlined four common roofing scams below and how you can best identify and avoid them.
How to Recognize a Roofing Scam Artist
1. The Storm Chaser
Perhaps the most well known roofing scammer is the storm chaser—roofers who travel around the country following severe weather in an attempt to exploit homeowners left with damages.
Despite public awareness, people from all states fall victim to this common scam. Usually, storm chasers will flock to an area hit by nasty hail or wind damage and prey on unsuspecting homeowners in need of repairs.
They offer low rates and do the bare minimum to give the appearance of a proper replacement or repair. Homeowners suffer from a poorly constructed roof while the fraudulent company has vanished.
How to Identify a Roofing Storm Chaser:
- Use high-pressure sales tactics
- Have no proof of certifications, licensing, or insurance
- Difficult to find online
- Unable to produce local references
- Have out-of-state license plates or driver’s license
2. Door-to-Door Salesman
Another popular method of scamming homeowners is the unannounced salesmen knocking on your door.
Usually, under the guise of a free roof inspection, these salesmen will go up on the roof and either lie about how much damage there is or worse, they'll fabricate damage to mimic that of wind or hail storms.
This can negatively affect homeowners in a number of ways:
- There’s a good chance the roof does not need to be repaired or replaced
- The fabricated damages reduce the full value of the roof
- Filing a claim could affect your insurance coverage and even force the insurance company to drop your coverage
Learn more about shingle roofs:
- The Ultimate Shingle Roofing Guide
- Architectural Shingles vs. 3-Tab Shingles: An In-Depth Comparison
3. High-Pressure Tactics
Whether they show up for a scheduled appointment or knock on your door unannounced, high-pressure salesmen sign a large number of homeowners every year.
For these guys, the goal is to make the customer sign a legally binding contract quickly by promising extremely low rates or a "special" deal.
Some roofing companies attempt such techniques because they’re looking for a down payment from the customer before they have a chance to find an average estimate. If they sign the contract and then catch word of other bids, it’s too late and usually too legally complicated or expensive to break the contract.
To avoid signing a contract you’re uncomfortable with, follow these rules of thumb:
1. Do not agree to give a large down payment up front. A reputable contractor should have the supplies and equipment needed to start the project, and they won't need your money to cover upfront costs.
2. Be wary of any contractor who insists both members of the house be present for a consultation. While it may come off as a good intention, it’s commonly used so the homeowner can’t say he or she wants to talk the decision over with their spouse. They know any extra time to make an informed decision decreases their chances of getting that signature.
3. Ask the contractor to leave at any point you become uncomfortable. They will ask a number of questions or employ whatever technique available to avoid leaving because a successful sale exponentially decreases as soon as they walk away. If the contractor won’t leave or becomes pushy, don't hesitate to call the police or a neighbor you trust.
4. Disappearing Down Payment
Another common tactic among roofing scam artists is asking for a large down payment up front.
They’ll claim they need a large down payment to buy materials, pay for labor, or secure their interest. But once they have that check in hand, they disappear.
Usually, the contractor will use high-pressure tactics to convince the homeowner to sign, or they will cash an insurance check as the down payment and then never come back to do the work.
Many people assume it’s normal to sign over the insurance check to a contractor so that they can buy materials. However, this is a common tactic to scam homeowners out of the money their insurance company issued. Once the scamming contractor cashes the check, it’s very difficult to get that money back.
How to Avoid Roofing Scams
The best tactic to avoid roofing scams is to do your research.
Speak to multiple contractors before hiring one for the job. Contacting a number of options will give you a solid outline of what the project requires, how long it will take, and how much it should cost. This makes dishonest roofers easier to spot.
Also, keep a close eye on the condition of your roof and the roofer's progress. Waiting until the last minute to address roofing issues can leave you vulnerable to contractors who promise quick results at a cheap price. In contrast, call a few different companies the moment you see a problem starting, and you’ll have ample time to make an informed decision.