NOT THIS GUY!
There are many unscrupulous contractors and con artists out there scamming unsuspecting homeowners out of their hard-earned money, particularly for roofing work. There are also many legitimate, honest contractors who simply don't have the knowledge, experience, or skill to work on your home. Would you hand over thousands of dollars to a stranger in the supermarket? This is what you are doing when you don't research your contractor!
Here are some steps to take:
- Make sure that the contractor you choose is licensed in the state in which he is doing business. A licensed contractor is required by law to have his license number on all advertising, including flyers, business cards, vehicles, and website. You have little recourse against an unlicensed, uninsured or underinsured contractor if he doesn't start or finish the work satisfactorily, damages or gets injured on your property, or simply takes your money and disappears. So buyer beware... ask for that license number!
Most states allow you to do an online license search. Even if the site is not working properly, a reputable contractor will be happy to provide you with a copy of their state license. Searches for home improvement contractor licenses for NJ, PA and DE can be made from these sites:
Make sure the contractor is fully insured. Ask him to give you a copy of their insurance certificate. This is a necessary and perfectly legitimate request, and the only reason a contractor will not comply is if he is uninsured or underinsured. Review the insurance certificate and check the following items:
- Make sure that the policy has not expired. The effective and expiration dates are clearly stated on the policy; if they are not, the certificate is not valid.
- Make sure that the policy includes "General Liability" and "Workers Compensation" insurance, which are both required by law for the contractor to do business.
- A contractor who does roof replacement MUST have an additional rider on his policy stating that he is insured specifically for roofing. Look for it on the policy; it may be in a "Description of Operations" or "Additional Remarks" box towards the bottom of the page. This additional roofing insurance is very expensive, and many roofers go without it, telling you that they are fully insured when in fact their insurance excludes roofing installation and replacement. What does this mean for you? YOU, the homeowner, will be liable if any part of your home (inside or out) gets damaged during roof installation, or if a worker gets injured while working on your roof!
- Contact the insurance agency shown on the insurance certificate to confirm that all of the information on the certificate is accurate and valid. Some contractors will go through great lengths to avoid expensive insurance, including fake certificates or adding false information to their existing certificate.
Check the contractor's status with the Better Business Bureau. Anything less than an A grade could be cause for concern. If your contractor is not listed with the BBB, or has no rating, this isn't necessarily a red flag. But a contractor with a good reputation that has nothing to hide will want to provide as much information to the public as possible, and the Better Business Bureau is a great way to do that.
Do an online search for the contractor, specifically reviews and testimonials. One or two negative reviews amongst a sea of positive reviews is not a cause for concern (you can't make everyone happy, and sometimes competitors leave fake negative reviews). But MANY negative reviews are obviously a bad sign!
The contractor should have been in business for at least five years, although even longer is better. While working with a contractor that hasn't been in business that long is not necessarily bad, an established contractor has more experience and skill, and has proven that he's in it for the long haul.
Make sure the contractor has a physical office, not just a post office box or "virtual" suite number. Although a contractor working out of his home is not a red flag, a physical office separate from the home shows that the company has "roots" and is more permanently established. Also, office personnel should answer the phone regularly, not an answering service or the company owner. You want to make sure the company has employees and doesn't consist of just one person working out of his truck with a cell phone as an office number.
Look at the contractor's work vehicles. Are they in decent condition or falling apart? Contractors generally put the same level of effort into your home as they put into their equipment. Also check the license plates and make sure they are from your general region and match the area in which the contractor claims he is based. If he says he's based in New Jersey but his license plates say Oregon, something is fishy.
Would you trust this guy to work on your home?
Make sure the contractor is certified with the manufacturer of the products he is installing on your home, which is especially important when you get a new roof. A contractor that is certified with the manufacturer can offer better and more comprehensive warranties than a non-certified contractor, and a certified/preferred contractor often has passed certain required tests to get their certification. Even if the contractor says he is certified, confirm with the manufacturer. Most of the major manufacturers have pages on their websites that allow you to search for certified contractors.
Does the contractor have references? Not just two or five references, but many references? Can he provide a list of testimonials, and can you contact those homeowners for verification?
How did you hear about this contractor? Did you find a hand-written note or poor quality flyer in your mailbox? Did someone come to your door and tell you the company has "leftover" material from another job in the area, or to sign up now to take advantage of a "limited time" offer? Did they request a large amount of money upfront? These are all big red flags, and legitimate companies don't use such sneaky, high pressure tactics.
Do your homework! If any of the contractor's claims don't check out, no matter how small, or you just get a bad feeling about a contractor… RUN! Because roofing scams are so rampant now, there are tons of resources online to educate the public on how to avoid these scams. Just Google "roofing scam" and get informed!
Do your homework now to avoid costly repairs later!