Storm chasers. It sounds like an exciting gig if you’re referring to the folks at the National Weather Service who track hurricanes and tornadoes. However, when it comes to the roofing industry, there’s another definition of storm chasers — and it’s neither exciting nor good.
Here in Arizona, our monsoons and even heavy rains throughout the year can bring with them high winds, massive walls of dust and a lot of water — a combination that can create some serious roof damage. And once the winds die down, the rain stops and the dust advisories are lifted, we all tiptoe outside and keep our fingers crossed that our roof withstood a bout with Mother Nature.
Often, we’re lucky and no damage has occurred, but it’s not at all uncommon for monsoon storms to loosen or crack roof tiles and shingles, or even to peel off whole sections of roofs. And that’s when big blue tarps start to show up on top of houses across the Valley, protecting what’s left of the homeowner’s roof until it can be repaired.
The good news is that there are way more “good apples” than bad in the roofing biz, but it’s important for consumers to be aware of scam artists known as storm chasers.
How the storm chaser scam works
Storm chasers roam the country in the wake of severe weather patterns that result in banged-up and battered roofs and desperate homeowners. They prey upon people’s economic, emotional and physical vulnerabilities in a time of crisis. They look for houses that were in the path of a powerful storm, frequently focusing on those that sustained obvious damage. But be forewarned — storm chasers are not at all averse to approaching owners of homes that appear to have completely intact roofs and make up “unseen” issues to scare homeowners into purchasing their services.
The modus operandi of a storm chaser is rife with red flags — remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Storm chasers usually stick to a pattern that includes the following:
- Unsolicited, they knock on your door and offer to fix your roof quickly and inexpensively.
- They say they “were just driving by” and have some extra materials from another job that they can offer to you at a reduced price.
- They only accept cash, stating that bank fees are too high to use checks and/or credit cards.
- They want full payment or a down-payment — in cash, of course — of 50 percent or more. Note, a much smaller down-payment, say of 15 percent or 20 percent, might be needed to purchase supplies, etc., but much more than that is a definite red flag.
- They offer a “special deal” only available today.
- They use a P.O. Box instead of a physical address.
- Their work vehicle doesn’t have a company name on it and often has an out-of-state license plate.
- They don’t have a tax I.D. number, they aren’t a member of the local Better Business Bureau and they don’t have local references (“we just moved here from out of state”).
- Sometimes they ask the homeowner to get any needed permits because “they can’t get to the city offices before closing time.”
Talk is cheap — and so is their work
Storm chasers will try to talk, talk, talk you into agreeing with them that you need expensive repairs that you don’t know for sure that you need. They might provide a super-low estimate. They might ask you to “make it easy on yourself” by signing over your insurance benefits. DO NOT DO THIS — it can result in insurance fraud and/or identity theft.
If they won’t stop their high-pressure sales tactics or leave to give you time to check them out, trust your gut and shut the door. While it’s a somewhat drastic final-step measure, call the police if necessary and report them as trespassers.
If you get hoodwinked
The point of this article is to help consumers not get duped by the predatory behaviors of storm chasers. But if you do –– and we know it doesn’t make it any easier or less painful –– just know that you are not alone. That’s because storm chasers tend to be terrific con artists who have perfected the art of taking your money and (1) performing very perfunctory shoddy work; or (2) not performing any work at all. If that happens to you (and we sincerely hope it doesn’t), report them to the Consumer Fraud Squad at the Arizona Attorney General’s Office; their website is www.azag.gov/complaints/consumer.
What to know about a reputable roofing contractor
Prior to hiring a roofing contractor, you should confirm that they:
- Are a registered/licensed contractor (check your state’s Registrar of Contractors, roc.az.gov)
- Have valid up-to-date professional liability insurance.
- Are licensed and bonded.
- Maintain membership in a roofing industry trade association.
- Have plenty of verifiable local references.
- Have overwhelmingly positive ratings on reputable review sites.
A storm chaser will either lie or have some semi-plausible reason as to why none of the above applies to them. Chase them away and don’t fall for it.
American Roofing & Waterproofing is a licensed and bonded professional business located in Glendale, Ariz. and is registered with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors (ROC #325294). We are AMA, NAA, ARCA, BBB, AACM, AAM and BOMA certified. We pride ourselves on delivering quality service to each and every one of our customers and have the reviews to prove it. We’d love the opportunity to service your roof when you need us. To book a service quote online, click here.