As we enter into the warmer months of the year, the possibility of severe storms becomes a reality. Hail storms and wind damage are not uncommon; in 2020, NOAA reported 4,611 such hailstorms. Every year there are billions of dollars’ worth of legitimate damage claims. Enter the storm chasers.
WHAT IS A STORM CHASER?
A storm chaser is someone whose line of business is to search the internet weather and news outlets for major hail storms and damage, then to pack up and move to that area temporarily in order to capitalize on the inevitable insurance claims that will be available in that area. Unfortunately, they will often falsify information to insurance companies, use cheap subpar materials and crews to just “get the job done,” and then leave town to chase the next big storm. This leaves homeowners stranded when they start to have problems with their inferior roofs. In some cases, they have even been known to take the money up front and deliver nothing in return.
As soon as the next day after the storm, it is likely that affected homeowners will have people knocking on their doors offering free inspections for storm damage. There is enough truth in this to make it difficult to know whom you should trust. There will likely be legitimate local roofing contractors from your area also vying for the chance to gain your business. Not everyone who is offering to help you work with your insurance company to get your damages repaired is of questionable repute. Here are some things to look out for when you start getting offers for storm-related repairs.
They offer you a free roof or seem overly confident there will be damage. As innocent and appealing as it sounds, it is illegal for the contractor to skirt your deductible by falsely raising their estimate in order to cover it for you. The agreement in your policy is that you must pay the deductible portion in a claim out of pocket. Also, it is common for storm chasers to fraudulently claim damage in an area that has been hard hit, since they won’t be around to pay the consequences later.
The name of the company is not clearly displayed. Are there vehicles, clothing, or print matter that have the name and information of a company? If not, it is in your best interest to pass on their services. There is no reason for a reputable company not to display their name, phone number, address, website, license info, etc. Especially be wary if the license plates of the salespeople are from another state.
They pressure you to sign with them immediately. A reputable local company has no reason to pressure you to decide immediately. High-pressure sales tactics can include telling you that you have to do it NOW or you will miss your chance to file a claim. (Fact: While all insurance companies are different, you typically have a year after the event to file a claim.)
They ask for the majority of the money up front at the time of signing. This puts you in danger of them taking the money and leaving without performing the work.
You can’t find the company listed when you look them up. If a quick phone book or internet search does not list them, that is a red flag.
Even if you aren’t tipped off by an immediate red flag, you should always take time to research any contractor that you are considering hiring. Are they local and licensed? Can you find reviews or check their rating with the BBB? Are local building suppliers familiar with them? A little bit of due diligence on your part can save you from many headaches later.