Dec 12 2012

Our new roof, and what could have been a disaster

When we bought our house last September, we knew that we’d eventually need to replace the 13-year-old builder grade roof.

We joked about praying for a hailstorm, because that would be the cheapest way to a new roof.  I did it anyway.

We kinda forgot about all that, and then in September 2012, we had a wild hailstorm blow through our area. We hunkered down in our closet while hailstones beat the house. It was loud. And yet it didn’t occur to me that there could be roof damage. The hailstones weren’t that big.

Huh? Dunno.

A few weeks later, a guy knocked on my door. He went into a spiel about the category 5 hailstorm that hit, and blah blah blah, would I like a free roof inspection? If he thought there was enough hail damage, he’d work with my insurance company to have them pay for a new roof.

You see where this is going?

And yet, the sales guy was really good. I signed a paper, thinking it was to allow him to get on my roof and look for damage. I was seriously mislead, but that’s no excuse for signing anything without fully understanding it.

The sales guy said he thought there was enough damage to get my insurance company involved, so he gave me a binder of info and some roof samples. I called my insurance agent and an adjuster came out (along with the sales guy) and the adjuster approved a new roof, gutters and downspouts.

It was at that time that it all began to click for me — I realized the microscopic fine print of the “agreement” said that I had to do work with that company, and if I wanted to cancel that, I had to pay a 20% fee. Oh great. Panic!

I didn’t want that company to do the work — I wanted to shop around Angie’s List and get estimates and the whole legit bit. And yet I almost got taken by this company. I wasn’t thinking.

I doubt the workmanship would be any good. I question the materials they would have used. I question whether they would have even completed the job, or if they would have taken my money and left.

I frantically emailed a few friends who were either in law school or lawyers, and while they couldn’t give me actual advice, the consensus was I should consult with an attorney to find out if that “agreement” had any teeth, and how to proceed.

I contacted a lawyer and she was fantastic. She researched this company and found they were in violation of several Indiana statutes. She didn’t think the agreement would hold up in court. And also, did you know there is a “cooling-off period” for canceling a sale or work agreement if the transaction happened in your home or in a location that is not the seller’s permanent place of business (read that link for the details).

The salesman was supposed to give me info about that, and also a cancellation form with an address to mail it to. He did not.

So. No real agreement here, just some scary words on paper that he could use to make me think there was a real agreement.

Oh, and I also contacted the insurance adjuster to let him know I thought the guy was a scammer. I wanted to know if the adjuster thought my damage was hail-related or vandalism. He did think it was hail-related, whew.

I paid the attorney to draft a letter to the salesman’s company, officially letting them know that no, they would not be doing my roof and they should not set foot on my property. It was a strongly worded letter and their legal counsel called her, and said “Ok, we’ll drop it if your client agrees not to sue us for damages.” HAH. (Sub-lesson: Sometimes hiring an attorney is a great move, and in this case she was well worth the fee).

They knew they were being shady.

I agreed I didn’t want to sue them; I just didn’t want them on my property ripping my roof off. If it was something inside my house, I’d tell them to buzz off without getting a lawyer involved from the get-go, but I wanted to be sure I had it documented that I did NOT want them on my property. What if they tore my roof off while I wasn’t home? Unlikely, maybe, but a frightening thought.

I had a big lesson learned here, and it’s important enough that I’m sharing it here on my blog in the hopes that it will help someone avoid this entirely. If that’s the case, then it’s worth the embarrassment of talking about this.

  • Avoid door-to-door sales people! Don’t let them even get started with their spiel. They might be pretty bad at sales, but if they’re clever, they’ll sell you without you even knowing it.
  • I’ve seen conflicting info on the “no soliciting” signs at your own door. Some salespeople ignore them entirely, and consider you to be a great mark with low resistance. Your town might require peddlers to purchase a license through the town.
  • You have no obligation to open your door to anyone. Home invasions do happen. You can speak to people through your door or nearby window, if you want.
  • Some advice suggests not entirely ignoring the presence of someone at your door. You can just holler “we’re not interested” and leave it at that, so at least they know someone is at home.

Since that first encounter with the salesman, I was home for three other storm-chasing roofing companies knocking at my door. I did open the door for all of them (Shane was home and I felt better about that) but in hindsight, I should have just told them to buzz off through the window.

One salesperson was a teenager or in her early 20s. I opened the door (wearing a hoodie, maybe that was it?) and she asked if my mom or dad was home. I gave her a really confused look, because what? I am the mom! Bye.

If your area is hit with a serious storm (hail or otherwise) you can expect storm-chasers to knock on your door. It’s a pretty common scam, though I had never heard of it. These typically are not local companies (though they may pretend — the scam company I was involved with used a local address, with a “suite” number. I looked it up later and it was for a box at a UPS Store. Suite? Right).

So. Wrapping up this long story, after I got rid of that first salesman, I went on Angie’s List and found three local roofing companies with excellent reviews. I had them all come out and give me estimates, and I chose what I thought was the best choice of the three.

They did the work a few weeks ago (in just a day! all of it!) and I’m happy with it. We opted to upgrade our shingles to the 30-year architectural style since it would look better, last longer and hopefully resist some types of damage. We also had them install a drip edge, since when we bought our house the inspector said whenever we replaced the roof, we should add one to help with moisture drainage.

The roofing company hasn’t been perfect. The communications have been less-than-ideal. They damaged part of my gutter with a ladder. We opted not to replace our gutters since they were all functional, but they will need to replace that small section now. They’ll do it free of charge (as they should!). I haven’t paid the company any money yet, so that works in my favor.

I made a big mistake signing a piece of paper without fully knowing what I was doing (or talking to Shane about it first). I was an easy target. I’m thankful this all worked out. And hey, the door-knocker alerted me to the fact that I did have hail damage so it wasn’t all bad.

How about you? Ever had a bad encounter with a door-to-door salesperson? 

This post is a part of the Carnival of Personal Finance at Money Life and More.



6 Responses to “Our new roof, and what could have been a disaster”

  1. Good job stopping the scammers. We had a similar turn out of sales people after an ice storm. We had a tree laid out across the roof of our brand new, week old house. We agreed on a price with one Co.. When the workers came back they wanted more money. They were SURE our insurance would cover it, our insurance agent said they would only cover it if there was damage to the structure. Frustrating. I’m gald it worked out for you,I’m sure your happy to have a new roof. Because of our experience, it is now our policy not to conduct business with any Company that comes to our door. Period. The only charity we will conduct business with is children selling for their school. Like you, I like to try and check out a Company first before doing business with them. I just tell anyone that knocks…”sorry, it’s our policy not to do business from our front door”. I also tell people that solicit for charity at the door “Sorry, I choose my charities they don’t get to choose me, leave me a brochure and I’ll decide on my own time”.

  2. I’m glad you were able to get control back! I hate scammers. My view on signatures is sort of strict…I’ll sign for packages and on recipt lines without any hassle, but any sort of document gets read line by line or I explain that my husband has to read it too. I get my paranoia from my mom and it serves me well, lol.

  3. Thanks for sharing the experience. Not just on sales, I guess in general, there are modus or schemes designed for almost every concern nowadays.

  4. Thanks for linking to the carnival :)

  5. Uggggh, dodgy! I hate door to door sales people, yet I’m awful at heading them off. Glad you escaped this one.

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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