Beware of Storm Chasers
What is a storm chaser?
Storm chasers are companies that follow severe weather from area to area, completing home repairs (generally roofs and siding) that are damaged by hail and wind. They collect homeowners’ insurance claim checks in payment for their services, complete the work (often shoddily) before moving on to the next storm ravaged area. Here in Chicago, we are prone to hailstorms, and storm chasers generally quickly follow any such event. They generally go door-to-door in storm damaged areas, and may advertise themselves as insurance recovery experts or specialists in insurance restoration. (The term “Storm Chaser” can also be used to describe a person who follows storms in order to research, photograph, or simply experience a weather phenomenon. This type of storm chaser is entirely different and is not of any concern to a homeowner!)
Why are storm chasers bad?
The first step of a storm chaser is to ask the homeowner to sign a contract allowing their company to negotiate with homeowner’s insurance company. By signing these documents, homeowners may be waiving their right to any decision making regarding their repairs or replacement. They also lose control over the insurance settlement, and the entire check of the payment may legally need to be signed over to the storm chaser- regardless of the quality or quantity of work completed. The homeowner may lose some control over materials used, leaving the storm chaser free to cut corners in order to increase their profit. Most importantly, warranty repairs can be very difficult to obtain as most storm chasers leave the area as soon as the storm “plays out.” These companies are generally gone long before warranty issues arise. The company is certainly not going to return from Florida or Ohio to repair a problem with their work. To make matters even more difficult, some storm chasers lease local company names so the appear to be local. Once they complete their work in the area, they leave. The local company is then responsible for the warranty work. Of course, the volume of warranty work is often so great the local company ends up out of business, leaving the homeowner with problems.
Storm chasers are also very damaging to the local economy. They deprive local contractors of business and decrease the number of resources you have when your roof suddenly springs a leak. By employing a local contractor to complete your repairs, you are helping to employee local Chicagoland workers.
How to spot a storm chaser:
Storm chasers usually:
Come door to door and try to get you to sign something immediately
Use high pressure sales tactics
Offer you a “Free Roof” or “Free Siding” or offer a way around paying a deductible (this is insurance fraud!)
Have out-of-state license plates or drivers license (and YES! you can & should ask to see a drivers license to verify identity.)
Are unable to produce recent, local references (or references from before the storm date)
Are unable to produce local supplier references (always check references from a potential contractors’ suppliers. If suppliers aren’t paid in a timely fashion by a contractor, they can legally place a lien on your home)
Have no proof of manufacturer certifications (large manufacturers offer their own certifications to established legitimate contractors. Look for GAF-Elk Master Elite Contractors, GAF-Elk Certified Contractors, IKO Shield-Pro Plus, CertainTeed 5-Star Contractors)
Are unable to produce a roofing license and certificate of insurance with the same identification information. A legitimate local company should show you an IL Roofing License and a Certificate of Liability/Workers Compensation both issued in the same name. If the names don’t match, you may not be protected.
Are unlisted, have unsatisfactory ratings or have complaints filed against them with the Chicagoland Better Business Bureau. You can look them up at http://chicago.bbb.org/