Protecting home owners from roofing rip-offs

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October 8, 2008 6:16:57 PM PDT
In the wake of any disaster, there is always fraud, and Hurricane Ike is no exception. Houstonians are being ripped off by fly-by-night companies, promising to do work and then walking away with a pocket full of cash. City leaders are trying to bring a stop to some of those scandalous workers -- shady roofing contractors.ROAD TO RECOVERY: How you can help | School closings | Person locator | Important phone numbers | Assistance from FEMA | Filing a claim

In an overwhelming disaster, people are desperate and roofers are scarce. Those are the perfect ingredients for contractor fraud.

"We take some actions that would reduce the risk of people getting ripped off by roofing," said Mayor Bill White.

There are thousands of homeowners throughout Houston and surrounding areas who need their roof fixed. Scammers, hoping to make a quick buck, simply start working on a roof, claiming they were sent by your insurance company. Then, they demand some money up front.

Or, they simply show up at your door and offer a discounted price for cash up front, and never finish the job.

"I got up there and got a roof," said homeowner Elias Gooden, Jr. "I tied myself up there because I got a busted hip -- I can't walk around like I normally would -- to keep myself from falling off the roof. I tried to cover it the best I could, but it rained all through the house."

The city council will likely pass an ordinance to help protect homeowners. It would require all roofers to register with the city and prove they hold more than a $1 million liability insurance policy.

City Councilman Jarvis Johnson said, "I think that this is absolutely the right thing to do, and as we know, time is running out."

Legitimate roofing contractors don't have a problem with the ordinance, but they want it passed fast.

Here are some tips to avoid getting ripped off:

  • Deal with a reputable roofing business
  • Check the company's credentials and license with the Better Business Bureau
  • Don't let anyone tell you they were sent by an insurance company. Insurance companies don't do that.
  • Never pay any money up front
  • If you suspect a rip-off, call city leaders.

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