Unfortunately, this is not a setup for a cute kids joke. Spring is just around the corner and that means uncertain weather conditions. And what follows storms? Why, storm chasers, of course!
Who are storm chasers? That is a terrific question. Storm chasers are those people who flood your neighborhood after a bout of hail or high winds to get you to replace your roof, or siding, or both. Often, storm chasers will say the insurance company contacted them to check out properties in the area. It's a quick assessment and it's free! If there is any damage they will take pictures and schedule the replacement ASAP. What a guy, huh?!
However, these people are NOT from your insurance agency. Storm chasers follow the storms across regions. Some of these storm chasers do provide quality work. Others, not so much. So, how do you identify a scammer?
Storm chasers usually have no local office and can not provide a proper roofing license or proof of insurance. They typically target neighborhoods they know have roofs that are 20 years or older and tend to put pressure on to close the sale. And, they will only do the bare minimum in repairing your roof. In some states that's as simple as attaching a tarp on the roof and calling it a day.
If you pay for the roof repair yourself, in other words, not going through your insurance company, it is reasonable for the roofing company to ask for a deposit. Storm chasers request the money upfront, leaving you with less in your wallet and a roof that has been "repaired".
Hopefully, you are not in a situation where FEMA needs to be involved, but if you are, know that FEMA never endorses contractors. If a storm chaser says they are FEMA endorsed, close the door immediately.
What can you do to protect yourself from these scam artists? Always go with local contractors. Ask your neighbors, friends, and family who they may trust. Don't forget about Google and Facebook. Post a request on Facebook for local contractors and then do your research on Google (or Bing, or Duck Duck Go). People behind the computer will have loads of suggestions on who they trust in your area.
Always ask for ID, proof of insurance, and licenses. In Indiana, you need to ask for their local operating permit and insurance certificates. At this time, Indiana does not require contractor licenses, but your county or city may. Though a manufacturer's certificate isn't required, it does show good faith that the company is a professional.
Get estimates and keep these estimates together so you can compare and contrast the offers. Every company is different and may have unique options available. Don't settle for the first company.
If you think you have storm damage to your roof and/or siding, call your insurance company. They will send out an agent to determine if indeed, you do have damage and if it is covered by your insurance. Don't trust the Landshark knocking at your door this spring!