Central Texans being warned about post-storm scammers

Unethical contractors are waiting to pounce, experts say
Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 1:23 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Hail rained down furiously on Central Texas Tuesday, damaging thousands of roofs across the area.

As Central Texans pick up the pieces, experts are warning about companies, and individuals, looking to take advantage of vulnerable storm victims.

Tony LeNoir, President and Owner of Cen-Tex Roof Systems, says they were overwhelmed with calls Wednesday.

“100 calls by noon,” said LeNoir. “ We’re not ambulance chasers, we let people come to us, we’re ‘your hometown roofer’ for a reason--we’re honest, we’re fair, we’re dependable.”

But LeNoir says not all roofing companies are that way, and he’s warning Central Texans about unethical, and even pretend or short-lived companies, looking to take advantage of those with storm damage.

“It gives roofers a bad reputation,” said LeNoir. “We’ve got to overcome that, and I think we have in the last 20 years in Waco.”

LeNoir says probably a third of the service calls they receive are from people who have been scammed in some way.

”Not everybody is here to help you, they’re here to pad their pockets,” said LeNoir. “Check references, the Better Business Bureau is a huge resource.”

The BBB has lots of warnings and tips in regards to unethical contractors poaching on storm victims.

“We call them storm chasers, affectionately, who follow the damage paths,” said Jason Meza, Senior Regional Director for the BBB. “They offer free inspections, they want money up front, and they either never return or they take a long time to complete the work, if they ever do, to your satisfaction.”

“Others fail to pay subcontractors, others fail to carry the adequate insurance, bonding, or licensing required, so as a result those don’t meet expectations and they end up with a bad reputation with Better Business Bureau,” he said.

Meza says, if you’re a storm victim: slow down, it’s better to do things right than fast.

“We just want consumers to take a second to breathe, start making calls to insurance agents, to policy holders, and then work that direction to contractors and repair work, that way you don’t end up in a bad situation,” said Meza.

LeNoir agrees, adding that Central Texas storm victims need to look out for roofers from out of town, and ones who claim they’re willing to pay the deductible.

”If someone’s willing to cover your deductible, that’s against the law,” said LeNoir. “They’re cracking down on that, they hold your second check until you pay your deductible.”

When dealing with severe storm damage, like leaking roofs, Cen-Tex Roof Systems tries to give those customers priority, even though they’re booked months in advance.

“Last summer we were 400 roofs behind, but people were willing to wait,” said LeNoir. “If you’ve got a leak we can take care of that, we do prioritize, we try to stay in order though, we’re here to help.”

However, for a reputable company, sometimes you have to be patient, LeNoir says, and it’s worth the wait.

”Hail damage sometimes takes years to start leaking--you’ve got time,” said LeNoir. “Wait for a local contractor, someone who can do your roof tomorrow...be very leery of that.”

Before hiring a company for repairs, Meza recommends storm victims do some comparing, and get what’s promised it in writing.

“We tell people to shop around and get three quotes, taking the first offer is usually not the best route, there are some kind-hearted people willing to help but once you’re past the relief stage, you can start the process of just checking reputation, ratings, complaints, anything that stands out before you enter into a contract to get repairs done that way you won’t get backed up into a situation where you’ll be waiting for repairs when ‘good guys’ actually could have come along, they didn’t solicit right away, but they’re at your door ready to help, so verify everything,” said Meza. “Then get it in writing, just because a verbal promise carries weight--it won’t stand up when you’re against the wall needing those repairs done quickly or on time...even text messages, that little piece will stand up as long as its in writing.”

Meza also says to pay with credit card, never cash, and never all up front.

Also, check TDLR, and call the appraisers first.

“Start with your insurance holders, start with your agents, that way they can get appraisers on the ground before a free inspection because lots of times we’ve seen roofers get up and create more damage to get the contract,” said Meza. “You want to get into contract with someone who is up to par.”

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