ROOFING CONTRACTORS: Who Are The Good Guys?
by Ron D. Fennel, President/CEO
Georgia Capitol Associates. LLC
Is your roofing contractor certified, licensed or insured? Surprisingly, there is no standard in Georgia law for minimum expectations for roofing contractors. A hammer, ladder and a $50 business license may be all that you need to be a roofing contractor.
With the advent of the Internet and widespread use of weather radar, there are companies specializing in targeting homeowners hit by storms. Known as “storm chasers,” many of these companies set up shop (usually for a brief period) and work through storm-impacted areas with their formula for replacing storm-damaged roofing. Hail damage is their number one focus, but they also offer quick replacement jobs for distressed homeowners.
The problem is: many of these guys are not professionally licensed from any reputable organization. Their specialty is the insurance angle, sending clipboard-toting sales representatives into an area and locking in the insurance reimbursement while having consumers unwittingly sign the paperwork for a new roof without adequate assurances of a quality, warrantied job. Some take the up-front money and never complete the work, moving on to their next victim. With a new LLC, they can pick up their operation and move to the next storm-ravaged area for more of the same.
Then add the “fly by-night “crowd to the “storm-chasers“ and the consumer can be confused as to the truly responsible contractor who will stand behind their work after performing a professional job. It is clear that Georgia is ready for a licensing regimen for educating, testing and certifying roofers. Our consumers deserve the protections afforded by such a program and the state’s roofing association agrees. Reputable companies are being unfairly besmirched by news reports of one bad roofing contracting after another.
With the economic downturn, Georgia’s new housing growth virtually stopped, putting may construction firms out of business. Exacerbating the problem for roofing contractors was the influx of the storm-chasers, illegal immigrant crews and unscrupulous opportunists. Add to that, the hungry ex-general contractors who could not meet the new standards set for the general contractor license and a “perfect storm” was created.
Professional licensing legislation for general contractors has only been implemented in Georgia within the last few years, helping to greatly raise the standards and allow testing, certification and a professional peer review for the industry, with the threat of license revocation or other sanctions as enforcement mechanisms. Several subcontractor groups have also been granted this licensing tool for enhancing a more positive and proactive basic expectation within each discipline. Some of the licensed contractors regulated in Georgia are plumbers, electricians, HVAC contractors, utility contractors and even low voltage specialists.
Georgia lawmakers took two giant steps in the right direction recently. The first was to establish the general contractor-licensing standard and the other was a new consumer-protection law, offered by Georgia’s Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens. House Bill 423 (passed in the recent 2011 session) slows the payout from the initial transactional moment, while proper review and contracting of work can proceed, thus minimizing the fraud practice of “get the payout and then get out,” which has plagued some homeowners and many insurers.
The next logical step is to license all Georgia roofing contractors, so that minimum standards for industry knowledge, competency and proper consumer protections can be assured. Sanctions against that license, including revocation, will allow proper policing from the peer group and examining board, which will set and maintain the minimum industry standards. The state’s professional roofing contractors have initiated this effort in supporting legislation, HB 666 authored by Representative Tom Weldon (R-Ringgold). Despite the unfortunate, yet unforgettable assigned number, this legislation is meant to bring Georgia into compliance with our neighboring states, by establishing licensing for ALL roofing contractors.
These predators can invade your neighborhood and create far more problems than they purport to solve. As stewards of your homeowners association and your residents who are unaware, YOU must help to educate them and be on the lookout for these fraudsters. Your homeowners are depending upon your leadership to help protect their most valuable asset: their home. IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING!
If you have questions, need a responsible roofing referral or if you want to enroll in the current grassroots effort to pass professional licensing legislation, contact the Georgia’s Roofing & Sheet Metal Contractors’ Association (RSMCA) at 770.615.3751 or www.rsmca.org. To report insurance fraud, contact the Georgia Insurance Commissioner’s office at 404.656.2070 or www.gainsurance.org/consumerservice. For any type of consumer inquiries or complaints, you may contact the Georgia Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs at 404.651-8600 or toll free at 800.869.1123 or www.consumer.georgia.gov.