Roofing scams surge after storms: Tips to safeguard your home and wallet

Severe weather can take a toll on your home in more ways than one. One of the most common is damage to your roof.

In a FOX 32 Special Money Saver Report, Dawn Hasbrouck shares details on how to spot it and avoid some scams.

Heavy rain and downpours mean summer is a busy time for Chicago area roofing companies.

"There’s been a lot of hail, wind and even some tornadoes around the area," said Kevin Filotto, who heads the residential roofing committee for the Chicago Roofing Contractors Association. "So it’s been a very busy time for all of us."

"Wind does more damage because it can actually remove the shingles from your roof which would then leave it susceptible for water to get in. Hail will affect the shingle itself and will cause dimples and blow off the granules from it. Nothing that would necessarily cause a leak.

So how do you know when your roof has actually been damaged following a storm? Some companies are on your doorstep quicker than the rain can fall to tell you your roof needs repairs.

"Most are going to wait for the calls to come in, but there are some that do work throughout the neighborhood and do door-to-door selling," Filotto said.

"It was just like Halloween. My doorbell kept ringing and ringing, and the mailbox was filled with pamphlets," said Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Chicago Better Business Bureau.

That’s what happened to Bernas after a big storm rolled through the Chicago suburbs near his home.

"Unfortunately with storms, people tend to go with whoever knocks at their door because everybody else is booked up," Bernas said.

Like good doctors, Bernas said a lot of good roofers are usually booked up for the summer with regular repairs, which is why you may be out of luck when Mother Nature comes calling.

He also said roofing scams consistently rank in the top 13 on the BBB's list of the most common scams.

"We had a recent one. I think it was over $20,000 they are still trying to get back," Bernas said.

Unfortunately, some Chicago area consumers have lost more than that.

According to Cook County circuit court records, 58-year-old Charles Bellavia "requested" a Northbrook man pay him more than $23,000 before starting repair work on his roof last summer.

The documents also state Bellavia said he needed the money upfront "so he could buy building materials to complete the job" and that Bellavia didn’t return to the man's home once he received the money.

After Northbrook police arrested him late last year, prosecutors charged Bellavia with theft and home repair fraud. His case is still ongoing.

So what can you do if you can’t schedule the roofing company you want?

"One thing is to contact your insurance company, first and foremost. I think a lot of consumers don’t realize their insurance company covered damages on your roofing. They may provide you some suggested contractors," Bernas said.

If you can’t get through to one of them, Bernas said watch out for these red flags when contacting a company on your own:

  • Not offering a written contract;
  • Not having a business card with a phone number; and
  • Not being able to find a company online.

If you do find them, a recent survey of Chicago area roofers by Consumers Checkbook said don’t get caught up on the posted reviews or pricing.

"I think a lot of people would say I don’t want to go with a low-priced company because it’s going to do bad work, but that’s not true," said Kevin Brasler, executive editor with Consumers’ Checkbook.

"We found that the companies that quoted high prices for our three homes were just as likely to have high ratings from consumers as low ratings. That there is no price quality relationship," he added.

You also want to ask who will be doing the actual work on your roof.

"A lot of roofers now use a sub crew for their labor. So a lot of roofers actually don’t have a license themselves. But then their crew that actually installs it does," Filotto said.

But before you even pick up the phone to call a roofing company, the BBB said check out the company and the Chicago Roofing Contractors Association said look out your window.

"If you see trees and debris flying throughout the yard, there’s chances that might hit the roof and could cause damage. You might see granules from the shingle released down and come out on the ground or even pieces of the shingle itself," FIlotto said.

Besides a water stain on your ceiling, Filotto said flying debris is really the only other telltale sign your roof has been damaged.

If you are not sure, he added most roofing companies will do a free inspection to let you know.

For information on where to find a licensed roofing company, please refer to the following online resources: