After a major storm hits, homeowners are under a lot of stress and are often quick prey for scammers trying to take advantage of them. Often, it's elderly folks who are easily confused during a time of crises, but really, anyone can get taken by a smooth talking salesman.
Part of the problem is that in Texas, roofers are not required to have a license. So if someone knocks on your door offering a great deal on a new roof, be careful. Sometimes these are called "storm chasers". They follow the path of destructive storms and just knock on doors or leave flyers advertising a new roof at low cost. But not all scammers are from out of town. Some of them may be an established business in the community. Regardless of where they're from, because the cost of a new roof can be substantial, there is a large incentive for crooks looking to make big bucks.
Who doesn't want to pay as little as possible to have damage repaired? But arm yourself with knowledge so you know what you're up against.
Storm chasers may use various tricks to get your business. However, that may not be their worst offense. The worst ones will collect money up front and then just disappear. As in, leave town, because they aren't from around here anyway. You'll never see them again, and you'll probably never see your money again, either.
Or it may not happen so quickly. The roofer will collect some money and deliver some shingles to your house, or they may even actually start the job. But sooner or later they'll stop coming and that's the last you'll ever see of them. There are many variations, and probably new ones being invented all the time. Some of these guys are very creative, others not so much.
In some cases you'll actually find a roofing contractor that will do the complete job without cheating you out of a lot of money. However, that doesn't mean it's a good idea to hire a storm chaser. Think about what happens if there's a problem. A leak springs up or there's a warranty issue down the road. It will be much more difficult, if not impossible, to get a hold of your "legitimate" roofer, because he's probably several states away, chasing another storm.
An additional problem with storm chasers is that many of them don't have adequate insurance, or don't have insurance at all. Without proper coverage, any work done on your roof becomes your liability. So even though a roofer may not be trying to steal your money, he may put you at unnecessary risk.
This leads to the question of paying upfront. If you don't pay upfront, you can avoid the problem of storm chasers cheating you, right? Perhaps, but from the view point of an honest, local roofing contractor, it's reasonable to ask for partial payment upfront. After all, if the roofer is working on several different houses, he'll have to purchase supplies for all of them, which will be a large sum of money.
Therefore, some reputable and honest contractors may ask for a partial payment up front. However, this would probably only be a deposit, perhaps around 50% of the total, depending on the project. You should never pay the full amount up front.
Nevertheless, anytime you have to make a payment upfront, you should have full confidence in the person you're giving money to. That means checking out the business before doing business with them. Read our tips on how to find an honest roofing contractor and precautions to take.
Here is a news article detailing problems with roofers: