Home Improvement Articles

Beware of Storm Chasers promising Free Roofs due to Hail Damage
Protect your house and hire a local reputable roofing contractor. Don't take chances with fly-by-night, hit-and-run, nomadic shingle slingers whose claims all seem "to good to be true!"
Sunday, April 2, 2023

Tis the Season!   The storm chasers saw couple of pea-sized hail stones in that storm, and now they are knocking on doors, handing out fliers, mailing post cards and buying ads on Facebook.  Most of them show you a map, asking, "do you live in the shaded areas."   If you do, you should AVOID these shady contractors. 

Storm chasing is nothing new.  You can get on youtube and search for "beware of storm chasers" and you'll find videos published 12 years ago, along with a few this week... from TV News Programs, Lawyers, Public Adjustors, Contractors and Property and Casualty insurance agents practically begging you to "just say no," slam the door, and protect yourself, your family, and your home, from unscrupulous con-artists calling themselves contractors.   We've included a few of these videos below.

Are all storm chasers hacks, and scammers?  No.  There are probably a few diamonds in the rough.  But how will you tell them apart?   They have no ties to the area.  They have no local accountability if they do a poor job, if your new shingles blow off in a year, if they damage your home, or leave a mess.  Your bad reviews won't mean anything because they will setup shop in a new town next month, under a new name, and a new business.    Local roofing contractors like Cope Construction and Renovation, and other well established contractors in Oxford, West Grove, Kennett, Cochranville and Unionville don't have that luxury. 

This is our home.  This is our community.  You are our neighbor.   If we hang you out to dry, we can't run from your feedback.   Therefore, it behoves us to take great care of our clients!   Storm chasers don't share this level of accountability.  

What is the danger? What could it hurt?

  • They could take your deposit money, run, and never do the work.
  • They could cause damage to your home, and you'd have no recourse.
  • They could do a poor quality job, and you won't discover this until 12 to 18 months from now, and now you have to hire another roofer out of your pocket to fix it, or replace the entire roof all over again.
  • They could commit insurance fraud, falsify documents, cause damage to justify a claim, and potentially take you along for the ride.
How many reasons do you need?   We'll give you five more... 
  1. Storm Chasers have ZERO accountability:  Typically, most Storm chasers are NOT local contractors.  No permanent business address.  No established reputation in the area.   No desire to win future work in Chester County.   This makes it incredibly difficult to hold them accountable if something goes wrong with the repairs or if you need follow-up work done.

  2. Storm Chasers are known for poor quality workmanship:  These guys are in a hurry.  Then need to create urgency for the sale, and their crews need to finish as many roofs as possible, as quickly as possible so that they can get to the next disaster location, or storm torn area.  Without a local presence or reputation to uphold, they aren't typically concerned about the quality of their work. They can go fast, and skimp on workmanship, materials, and installation techniques, because they know, by the time you see a leak or a shingle blow-off, they'll be long gone.

  3. Storm Chasers are rarely registered, licensed or uninsured:  Every state, and many counties and townships have licensing requirements.  They often verify insurance.  Door-knocking storm chasers often try to fly under the radar and get-in and get-out before regulators can catch wind of their illegal activities.  What happens if one of their guys falls off your roof or shoots themself with a nail gun while working on your home?   If that storm chaser isn't legit, and is paying cash to guys under the table, you and your homeowners insurance policy could be on the hook for that guy's medical bills, funeral expenses, pain & suffering, etc. Do you want to pay a million dollar lawsuit?   What happens if their work fails, and the leaks damage your drywall ceilings, hardwood floors, or worse?   Without proper contractors liability insurance, you'll be paying for those additional repairs out of pocket.  Verify registrations and get a copy of their certificate of insurance, showing your name, address, and phone number as the certificate holder.  If you aren't sure what you are looking at, give it to your insurance agent and have them review it.   Call the agent listed on the COI for the contractor's policy and verify that its legit.  And find out how long the policy has been enforce.  If its recent, beware. 

  4. Storm Chasers are known for price gouging:  Storm Damage feels URGENT... and salesmen for storm chasers know how to leverage this and prey on your fears.   They may try to take advantage of the urgency and stress of the situation to charge inflated prices for their services. This could leave you paying more than you should for repairs or services ... some of which may not even be necessary.

  5. Storm Chasers can promise warranties or guarantees, but if you can't find them, they don't do you any good: Do I need to say anything else about this?   You could be left without any recourse if something goes wrong with the repairs.

What should I do if I think I might have storm damage?

There are three phone calls you COULD make.  (1) would be to your insurance agent who wrote your homeowners policy... we don't recommend this, and we'll explain why in a moment.  (2) would be to a local public adjuster like Bert Wylen or Anthony Scheirer and ask them to look at your policy rider to determine if you may have a covered loss, and then whether it makes sense to possibly hire them to negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.  This is what we feel MOST homeowners should do first, if they suspect a storm damaged their home  (3) would be to a local, established, roof replacement contractor who can evaluate the roof for damage and areas of concern and provide a quote to replace it. 
If you have an URGENT need like a tree fell on your house, then all three of those calls need to happen simultaneously and pretty quickly, but again, start by calling the public adjustor FIRST.

Why shouldn't a homeowner file the claim themselves, DIY style? 

Its great to talk to your insurance agent BEFORE you experience a loss about various scenarios that you would be covered for.  However, in our opinion, its unwise to call them yourself about a claim.   We've heard too many stories of homeowners telling their agent, "we had a flood in our basement" only to hear, "i'm sorry, your policy doesn't cover basement flooding.    What that homeowner should have said was along the lines of, "We had a sudden accidental discharge of water from a pipe, which has caused water damage in our basement."   We've also had claim adjusters from 3 different well known insurance companies ask leading questions during a claim investigation, "So you found rot?" to which we replied, "no, we found water damage."   Had we agreed with them and answered, "Yes, we found rot" the claim would have been denied because rot was an excluded peril.    Now that's just two example of how an insurance company can weasel out of paying a claim for a covered loss because an un-educated homeowner used the wrong language, and the wrong term.  That lack of proper insurance-specific vocabulary has caused them to have their claim denied. 

For these reasons, we highly recommend that you consult with a public adjustor like Doreen Sundelin or Anthony Scheirer who will work for you, and can present your claim to the insurance company properly.   Typically, their fees are lower if they get first crack at it.   Most public adjusters add a surcharge if they have to try to "fix" what a homeowner screwed up trying to DIY their claim on their own without the proper guidance and representation.   In addition to public adjustors, you might chat with professional independent estimators like Tom Price at (856) 577-3752 who writes estimates for a flat fee, rather than taking a commission, and coaches clients on how to file the claim along with what to say and what not to say.  Both routes avoid the obvious conflicts of interest entanglements when your contractor is negotiating with your insurance company on your behalf or asking you to sign over rights to claim. 

Should I just ask the roofing contractor to deal with my insurance company?

Again, our recommendation is going to be a strong, "No."   Think about it in terms of a "conflict of interest" perspective.   You want a new roof.  You want the best roof you can afford, put on by the best roofer in West Grove PA, especially if the insurance company is paying for it.  

A dishonest storm chaser just wants the money.   An honest storm chaser and a local reputable roofing contractor want to fill their calendar with work for their crews.  But if you sign over the rights to your claim, you lose all negotiating power.  I can't explain all the nuances, but there are ways for roofers to extract "extra" money from your insurance company... perhaps to cover drywall damage inside, or new gutters, and simply walk away with that money as profit, rather than inform you that they were able to get additional things covered.   

Our opinion is that it is unethical for a contractor who benefits from doing the work, to negotiate with your insurance company, on your behalf.

While we are not alone in this belief, not everyone agrees with our opinion, and there are a few reputable companies who manage to walk the line as the intermediary, but we're not comfortable with it.  It feels shady.   It feels dishonest.   And we won't do it. 

Our recommendation is that you hire a public adjustor and the two of you work together to get the claim covered, and then you ask us for a quote to repair or replace your roof.    Keep the two pieces separated.   Its clean, and its transparent.   And there is a lot smaller chance of you getting taken advantage of or being scammed or ripped off by a storm chaser. 

Still planning to hire a storm chaser?  Follow these tips

  • Absolutely 100% make sure you get a certificate of insurance from the contractor showing your name, address, and phone number as the certificate holder, and call the agent to make sure it is valid BEFORE you sign a contract, BEFORE you pay a deposit, and Call the agent who wrote the policy again to make sure the policy is still in-force before you make the final payment when the job is complete.  If you get ripped off, or they do a poor quality job that later fails and damages your home, if you can't find the contractor because they disappeared into the night, this COI might be the ONLY recourse you have left to try to get compensated and be made whole again. 
  • Go to HICsearch.attorneygeneral.gov and verify the contractors PA Home Improvement Contractor number.  They offer 1 year and 2 year registrations.  If their registration expires in 11 months, and 15 days or 23 months and 15 days from now, it was probably just acquired.  This is a BAD SIGN!  If you live outside of Pennsylvania, find your state or county's contractor registration website and requirements and verify their registration or license and find out how long they've been in business. 
  • Read our article on how to properly screen a contractor for more on this, and other great tips.
  • When you find their reviews, click on the names of the people who left them reviews on google maps or facebook and see if those people left other reviews for other local businesses.   If not?  If that review for the contractor was the only review they gave anyone, be suspicious.   Its not uncommon for contractors to "buy reviews" from fake accounts and bot-farms overseas. 
  • Search for them on the Better Business Bureau website.   WARNING: The BBB is a Pay-to-Play operation.  A contractor with a Bad reputation can PAY to have that reputation score improved (20/20 Investigation) (Roofing Insights) (WPTV) (Congressional Testimony).   So if you see a good reputation score, take it with a grain of salt.  But if you see a Bad score, or lots of complaints, that is a clue that you need to be careful!
  • Do a WhoIs lookup on their domain name.  In the day-and-age of private registrations, you may not find out a lot of company information, but you will find out how old the domain name is.   If they just registered it in the last few months to a year, that's a bad sign that they created their website, just to chase recent storms.   If they registered it 5 or 10 years ago, that bodes well that maybe they've been around a while and have staying power to stand behind their work. 
  • Do NOT sign over the rights to your insurance claim. You must maintain control of your policy and your money!
  • Go through our quintential roofing blog article with embedded videos and write-ups, our Roofing Education Playlist on youtube, and our roofing articles here on our website.  Learn everything you can about proper shingle installation techniques, and QUIZ your roofer to see if they are knowledgeable.    
  • Consider hiring a contractor like Cope Construction or a real estate transaction home inspector to inspect your roof during installation and again after it is complete, BEFORE you pay the contractor the final payment.   There is a lot that can't be seen, but there are some obvious warning signs of a bad roof installation which we can help watch out for.  

But you don't have to take our word for it.  

To learn more, you might consider doing an web search for terms like..
  • what is a public adjuster and why do I need one?
  • what is a public adjuster and what do they do?
  • Public Adjuster Role, cost, when to hire one
  • What to know before hiring a public adjuster
Here are some videos from around the country, warning homeowners about the dangers of signing a contract with a storm chaser.

Want to keep reading and learn more?  Check out our eye-opening video interview with a public adjuster after a series of wind storms tore through Southern Chester County ripping shingles and siding and rake-board capping from homes across the route-one corridor from Nottingham to Chadds Ford, and Kirkwood to Hockessin.

Why are we giving such a passionate warning about the dangers of hiring a storm chaser to repair damage on your home? 

 First, we don't know for sure that you have damage.   And we've seen storm chasers "cause damage" in order to justify a claim.   

Second, we all know the story of the high school girl who dumped the respectful, educated, smart, responsible young man she was dating, when she got asked out by the popular guy with the flashy car and the massive athletic abilities.  And how that responsible young man was the one came crying to for comfort, after that popular guy got her drunk, and tried to rape her.  I vividly remember 5 or 6  specific clients who hired a storm chaser who was "doing all the homes in the neighborhood" and then experienced a roof failure 12 to 18 months later.   The storm chaser was no longer around, couldn't be found, they didn't have a COI (Certificate of Insurance) and they called us to come pick up the pieces and put their home back together again.   I personally jumped up on the roof of one of our church-leader's homes after they had hired a storm chaser.  I found mistakes made in the valleys that would eventually lead to a leak, and made those corrections, added sacrificial boots to the pipe collars, and cleaned out the gutters to help protect their forever home.  I don't want to see you get raped by one of these scammers.   As a foster parent, we've had a few all-nighters walking our foster-kids through the aftermath of a sexual abuse nightmare.   As a contractor, I've helped homeowners pick up the emotional and financial pieces of a mess left behind when they were taken advantage of by a con-artist calling themselves a contractor.   These fly-by-night, hit-and-run storm chasers give ALL of us in the blue-collar trades a black eye and a bad reputation.   So this little blog article is my attempt at punching back, and arming and equipping my friends and neighbors with the information you need to protect yourself from the scams.   

Are all storm chasers bad evil people? No... but why would you hire someone from out-of-town with no ties to the community, when we have so many well known, established, reputable, family owned and operating roofing contractors who live here, work here, serve here, and give back to the community here, who you can support when hiring someone for work on your home?  We look forward to the opportunity to WOW you with our Customer Service, and earn the opportunity to serve you, as you work to protect, maintain, improve, your Forever Home.