Editor’s note: We are bringing back this story from March 2017 to help our North Texas neighbors find a responsible roofer.
Hit by hail in recent storms? Remember there’s no roofer license in Texas, so you’re on your own.
Here are tips from The Watchdog about how to hire the right contractor.
Texas also doesn't require that contractors and roofers provide workers' compensation for employees or general liability insurance. Reputable companies do. If they don't, that's a warning sign.
The Watchdog's main piece of advice: Be suspicious.
Oklahoma tornado victim Leigh Ann Bryson once told me, "Recovery is not a time to exhibit trust."
Use Internet search engines to drill deep into the backgrounds of prospective hires. Use Google to check their names and their company names with these words in separate searches: "rip-off," "complaint" and "scam." Are others complaining about them?
Opponents of a state license say that consumers can use a paid service such as Angie's List. The problem with Angie's List is that when someone posts a negative review, a contractor can issue a refund and the negative review is removed. So you can't check a contractor's true history on Angie's List.
Finding the right one
In the many towns and cities that make up North Texas, there are dozens of reputable companies with long histories. You want one of them.
Get at least three bids from contractors. A low bid is not necessarily the best pick.
Make sure all bids compare apples to apples. Make sure cleanup is included.
Is the contractor a member of a professional organization? Its website will list its membership. These organizations also offer a code of ethics for members to follow.
A list: Dallas Builders Association (DallasBuilders.com); North Texas Roofing Contractors Association (ntrca.com); Roofing Contractors Association of Texas (rooftex.com); National Roofing Contractors Association (nrca.net); National Association of the Remodeling Industry (naridallas.org), Texas Association of Builders (texasbuilders.org). If something goes wrong, you can appeal to the contractors' organization.
Even though Texas doesn't require a state license, the Austin-based Roofing Contractors Association of Texas issues its own unofficial license. Not many roofers are on the list.
Remember to check a plumber's record with the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners. Check an electrician's record at the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. But with contractors and roofers, nada.
If a roofer offers to pay your deductible or work with an insurance company on your behalf, remember that both of those actions are illegal in Texas. Disreputable roofers promise both as an enticement to get your signature on a contract.
Only a licensed public insurance adjuster is allowed to work with an insurance company on behalf of a homeowner. A public adjuster, hired by a homeowner, takes a percentage of proceeds if he or she can help retrieve more money.
Roofers may not negotiate a claim or interpret an insurance policy. They do it every day, but it's against state law.
Reputable companies don't need to go door to door with fliers and sweet talk.
If a roofer says "Pay in advance," say "Get lost."
Be wary of "contractor charisma." Con artists are the most charming people you'll ever meet.
Does a roofer or contractor have a phone number with an out-of-state area code?
Don't hire anyone who operates out of a pickup with no local address. That's high-risk. How are you going to get him to come back for warranty work?
Check references. Talk to former customers.
Call City Hall and ask if the contractor properly applies for permits.
Visit the Better Business Bureau website to check the number of complaints. (Not a company's grade, which is a less reliable measurement.)
Verify a contractor's physical work address.
Ask for a copy of the contractor's certificate of insurance. Look it over carefully.
Ask who the contractor's supplier is. Check with the supplier about the contractor's payment record.
Although there's no state license, some cities require registration. Check whether yours does, and whether your prospect is properly registered.
Use your phone's camera to photograph everything. The salesman at the door. The license plate of the truck in front of your house. The ID cards and even driver's licenses of people you're dealing with. That gives an added layer of protection: They know you know who they are.
Subscribe to a paid Web service such as publicdata.com that allows you to check lawsuits, criminal records, corporate records, sex offenders and more. The annual cost is $35.
Get a contract. Read it. Cross out what you don't like. Sign it and keep a copy. Make sure the contractor signs, too. Any agreements must be in writing. Oral promises are no good.
Do not sign a contract that contains unfilled-in blanks.
Roofing warranties should be good for 20 years.
Avoid contracts that require arbitration instead of a lawsuit if something goes wrong.
Include a timeline in the contract so the contractor knows when the job must be finished. Consider adding penalties for missed deadlines.
Pay in stages. Don't pay the bulk until a project is COMPLETELY finished. Make sure suppliers are paid and a city inspector has signed off.
Texas law: Anyone involved in cleaning, removing or reconstructing property after a natural disaster must provide a written contract to customers. Payment before a job is prohibited. Contractors that have had a business address for at least one year in Dallas County or an adjacent county are exempt.
The Watchdog hopes this cheat sheet helps you avoid getting cheated.
Staff writer Marina Trahan Martinez contributed to this report.
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