Texas has one of the highest rates of roofing fraud in the country, according the state insurance commissioner, and ultimately the victim is you, the consumer.
Some state legislators are working to change that, but the changes — if passed — would come too late to protect victims of the Christmas weekend tornadoes.
A blue tarp is now the only thing that protects Garland resident Jim Holt's house. He was home when the storm hit.
"To me it sounded like a big machine that was just grinding something," Holt said.
That something was his neighborhood. Holt considers himself one of the lucky ones. His home can be repaired and his insurer is already at work.
"They've got a company that's securing my roof as we speak," Holt as workers on ladders spread a tarp across a quarter of his badly damaged roof.
While Holt believes the roofer recommended by his insurer is reputable, he worries about neighbors, some of whom have little guidance finding a good roofer. There are plenty of roofing contractors in the Garland area, but Holt is wary.
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"They're driving around, people driving through and passing out cards," he said.
But it's difficult to know who to trust. Right now in Texas, anyone with a hammer and a business card can call himself a roofer.
Unlike our neighbors in New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana that all require registration or licensing, Texas has no such requirements. That worries state Rep. Kenneth Sheets who says the Lone Star State is now a haven for the rip-off roofer.
"You're seeing Texas as a spot of opportunity for these guys," Sheets said.
He's proposing legislation to change that. His bill would allow roofers to voluntarily join a state registry.
"You'd be part of a statewide database that consumers can go look at so that when consumers are looking for a roofer there's already a database that the state is maintaining for them," Sheets said.
Consumers would know that registered roofers have insurance, contact information and an address. That's important. Consumers need a physical address to be able to serve them with a lawsuit. Sheets says he constantly hears from consumers who pay roofers for work they don't complete. Another common scenario occurs when the roofer does shoddy work and can't be found to honor the promised warranty. When consumers try to take the roofer to small claims court, they can't find them.
Sheets, a Republican, admits regulation is a tough sell in a Republican-controlled legislature.
"This is a business-friendly state, but there are certain areas where I think we should enact laws to protect Texans. And I think this is one of those areas," he said.
Leaders in the roofing industry support the bill, but said it doesn't go far enough. Roofing Contractors Association of Texas president Dan Pitts said he wants roofers to be licensed. He believes it protects the consumer and the industry from being marred by disreputable roofers. Until that happens, consumers must protect themselves.
Before you hire a roofer, consider the following advice:
- Ask if the roofer is a member a professional roofing organization like the Roofing Contractors Association of Texas or the North Texas Roofing Contractors Association.
- Ask if he has insurance and ask to see his insurance certificate. Sheets said hiring an insured roofer protects the customer. Without it, the homeowner is at risk of a lawsuit if the roofer is hurt while working on your property.
- If the roofer asks for part of the money up front for materials, don't pay until the materials are delivered to your home.
The North Texas Roofing Contractors Association has a full list of questions to ask before hiring a roofer that could help Texans avoid roofing scams. Their ongoing public education campaign aims to inform Texans about the dangers of handing over your insurance money to the fly-by-night roofer.
Questions to Ask a Roofer Before Letting Them on Your Roof