Hail Damage “Heads Up”

In the wake of a major hail storm at the end of May, many area homeowners have been inundated with roofing contractors offering their services. Some times the overture is as direct as a knock on the door; in other cases the sales pitch arrives in the mail box in the form of a professionally done, glossy postcard.

Regardless, homeowners would be well-advised to do their normal due diligence before committing to any work.

Even if your insurance company is picking up most (or all) of the tab, if the work performed is shoddy, it’s likely to be your headache. That’s especially the case if your insurance company simply cuts a check to you personally in resolution of your claim (along with the check there is typically legal language releasing the insurance company from further liability). Given that the cost of a new roof can be $15k or more for a bigger home with a steeply pitched roof, the dollars at stake can be considerable.

So what should you ask?

For starters, where the roofing company is from. The series of hail storms in late May/early June was extensive enough that many out-of-state contractors headed here for a piece of the action. It’s not exactly a secret that new home construction is slow, so the number of contractors looking for work is disproportionately high.

Just because the contractor isn’t local isn’t necessarily a red flag. However, that does make getting information about them more difficult. A reputable contractor will help prospective customers learn about them, offering such information as their state license number, proof of insurance, and referrals.

If the contractor is based in Minnesota, the vetting process is easier. Besides obtaining multiple references, other suggested steps include: checking third-party referral services such as Angie’s List and Consumer’s Checkbook; asking your insurance company for any information they have on the contractor; and checking whether the contractor’s license is active and in good standing at the Minnesota Secretary of State and Department of Labor and Industry (formerly the Commerce Department) Web sites.

Here’s the link for the latter: https://secure.doli.state.mn.us/licensing/licensing.aspx

There is also the Better Business Bureau. Unfortunately, in my experience simply being a “member in good standing” does not necessarily mean a contractor is reliable. The reason is that by the time a contractor’s status has been flagged, there is likely a pattern of bad behavior.

Similarly, while the Department of Labor and Industry has a section titled “enforcement actions,” not showing up there is not the same as a bill of good health. The reason is that an enforcement action only indicates that the contractor has run afoul of the state. If instead a customer has sued a contractor and they’ve settled privately (complete with a confidentiality clause), by definition there’s no public record.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

Leave a Reply