Storm Chasers - What You Need to Know About This Insurance Scam - NYCM Insurance Blog

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Mar 29, 2020

Storm Chasers - What You Need to Know About This Insurance Scam

When you think of a “storm chaser” you may picture a person in a news van driving furiously into a tornado to capture footage, following the storm from town to town. What you may not know, is a “storm chaser” is also a term used for someone who tries to rob you of your money and make empty promises to repair your roof after a catastrophe hits.

A storm chaser is just that -- they roll into town after a storm rolls out, posing as legitimate roofing contractors. They promise to do work to repair your roof, and many times will require a down payment, or full payment in advance. Then, they’re gone. With your money in-pocket, and your roof still awry. So how can you protect yourself from these scammers? Read below to learn more.

What do I need to know before hiring a roofing contractor?

Find a reputable roofing company - Preferably one local to your area. You may have neighbors or coworkers who have used this company before who had a good experience. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising, especially from people you trust. If someone approaches your home with a flyer and offers you a free estimate and says they can start tomorrow without you reaching out to them, put your guard up and do more research.

Once you do find a roofer that you are interested in, pay a visit to their office location - While you shouldn’t be expecting a glamorous office, having an office to begin with is a good sign. Drop by to check out their location, and while you’re there...

Double check their insurance - One of the most important things you need to be aware of is that once you verbally agree to doing business with a roofing contractor, they must supply you with a written contract that will include the following:
  • Name of their business insurer 
  • Type of insurance coverage they have and their policy limits
  • A certificate of Workers’ Compensation covering all employees that will be working on your home
  • A Certificate of General Liability Insurance in the amount of $100,000 per person, $300,000 per occurrence for bodily injury
  • A Certificate of Property Damage Insurance in the amount of $50,000 for each occurrence and aggregate

You do not owe them any money up front - According to Section 771-b of the General Business Law, you are not required to provide any form of payment upfront. If someone is demanding you pay them any amount up front, it’s safe to assume you are being scammed.

Also, updated laws state that roofing contractors cannot offer or promise to pay or rebate any of the owners’ insurance deductible as an inducement to the sale. This rebate includes offering a discounted fee, gift, prize, bonus, coupon, credit, referral fee or other item of monetary value.

Laws are changing 

On November 25, 2019, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo signed new consumer protections into law to protect us from “storm chasers. The updates included updating the description of a “roofing contractor” to include that they must be a roofing professional who will enter into written contract and who will be required to disclose proof of insurance and policy limits. Those additions make for a safer bet that they will responsibly get the job done for you. 

Ultimately, be vigilant --  Unfortunately, sometimes people do things with only their intentions in mind. Be cautious when hiring someone for any job around your home, especially the big ticket items. If you feel like something is off, go with your gut! New laws were put in place to better protect homeowners from these types of scams, but always be aware and knowledgeable in whatever undertaking you are paying someone to accomplish for you on your property.