Roofing scam complaints lead Georgetown officials to consider how to protect residents

Complaints about roofers mount after storms, and the city of Georgetown is looking to help residents find reputable roofers. (Courtesy of Sarris & MacKir Roofing and Construction)

Following unofficial complaints of roofing scams following last year’s extreme weather, the city of Georgetown is investigating ways to help keep residents safe.

As of 2017, there have been 21 official complaints of roof scams in Williamson County and five official complaints since 2020 from Georgetown, all following extreme weather events in the area, such as hailstorms and the February winter storm, according to the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office. from Texas.

Though under-reported about roofers, they usually take place after extreme weather events when individuals called storm chasers pose as local roofers who promise to help consumers, then disappear without doing any work and scam residents for but as much as $20,000, according to the state.

“There are people who are ashamed that they have been scammed; they don’t like to talk about it; so as a result, it’s not being reported,” said Councilman Mike Triggs.

Extreme weather conditions can often lead to roof damage and the need for repairs increases. For example, after a hailstorm in May 2020, the city of Georgetown saw an increase in the annual 400 roof renewal permits normally issued to 5,488, a 1.272% increase from the annual average, according to city data. Between February 22 and June 28, according to city records, the city issued 291 roof re-roofing permits, many of which resulted from damage from the February winter storm.

The need for one service by a huge population could attract individuals who want to take advantage of the situation, said Councilman Kevin Pitts. “You have one event [that] can enter and cause damage that requires a very large percentage[age] of the population to need one shift,” Pitts said. “There will be a lot of predators on that prey.”

After a hailstorm in April, several councilors and local roofers received complaints that residents had been ripped off by unknown roofers. Most of these complaints came from individuals in Sun City.

“We have a very vulnerable population here in Sun City,” Councilman Steve Fought said. “As you get older, you are more prone to fraud.”

Georgetown resident Jane Hayes said she lost about $8,000, which she gave to a roofer who asked for the money up front for supplies. Hayes only reported the scam after her sons encouraged her to do it.

When Hayes reported the scam, she was told that at her age, she was at greater risk of being scammed. She added that she knows this has happened to more people.

“I don’t think this is something people should be able to get away with,” she said. “Some people should be on a list not to call; other people should be on a list to call.”

City officials first brought the issue of roof scams and storm chasers to the Georgetown City Council on April 13, when staff asked how to change the current contractor registration program to address the issue.

The current contractor registration program allows contractors to register for a single-use permit for free, and the only document required is a copy of their driver’s license, said Georgetown Chief Building official Glen Holcomb. The Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation does not require roofers to be licensed. Gary Brown of Hometown Roofing Pros, a Georgetown roofer who took the matter to the council, suggested fingerprinting, background checks and proof of insurance be taken.

“We need to protect citizens from frivolous roofers entering the area after a major storm,” he said. “[We need to set] a standard that sets stricter guidelines to protect citizens.”

The City Council continued its deliberations during its May 25 meeting.

Local roofers Mike Pickle of Texas Traditions Roofing and Mike Cochran of Apex Roofing spoke to the city and expressed support for a contractor registration system that would protect citizens and help roofers who comply with the law and those who don’t. to keep.

“How can we create a system that protects the citizens of Georgetown from being scammed?” said Pickle. “We want to put together a system that protects the customers.”

Councilor Shawn Hood expressed concern that there may not be a real problem.

“We have no complaints about it,” Hood said at the May 25 meeting. “Are we looking for a solution to a problem that doesn’t fully exist?”

Despite the lack of official complaints, some councilors and roofers said they believe the city should protect residents.

“I think we also need to teach people that they just don’t hire a roofer to knock on their doors,” Triggs said. Community Impact Newspaper. “They should check that people have gone through the correct procedures.”

In a June 8 email newsletter, Fought said the city should provide advice on expectations for roofers and distribute a list of reliable contractors in the area. Complaints filed with the consumer protection department reveal that scammers would offer to waive the deductible, ask for cash up front, ask for the insurance check and disappear once the checks are cashed.

“I paid a $1,500 down payment to have my roof repaired,” one complaint stated. “Not only have they made no attempt to get the job started, but they won’t refund my money.”

According to the complaint, another complainant lost $22,177 when asked to prepay for the supplies.

Community Impact Newspaper tried to contact more residents who reported complaints, but all refused to speak officially or use their names. On July 12, the city council has not yet made a decision on the current tendering program for contractors.

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