In today’s complex business world, it’s impossible for anyone to know everything. Business owners are no exception. They’re experts on the products or services they offer, and how to keep their businesses running efficiently and profitably, but most aren’t experts in roof management. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unscrupulous companies that take advantage of that lack of expertise, especially when it comes to commercial roofs.
The last thing you want to do is fall victim to a roofing scam. Here are 6 things every business owner can do to make sure they aren’t taken advantage of the next time you work with a roofing contractor:
1. Thoroughly Vet the Contractor
Some contractors misrepresent themselves, so the safest route is always to verify the claims of any contractor you’re considering:
- A contractor with “30 years of roof management experience,” for example, could have 10 people with three years of experience each.
- You’ll also want to verify that the roofer is insured; otherwise, you could be liable for any worker injuries. Get both the name of the insurance company and the policy number, then call to make sure the policy is up-to-date and covers everything the contractor claims it covers.
- Ask to see certifications, such as those issued by the National Roofing Contractors Association or by a state or local organization. In addition, make sure the roofer has any locally required business licenses.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau to find out whether any complaints have been filed against the contractor.
- Get references from previous customers. And just be aware that no contractor is going to put you in touch with someone who will give him or her a bad reference, so try finding some on your own. Small business associations and trade associations are a good place to start.
- Find out whether the contractors will do the work themselves or sub-contract it out. A roofer who works with a subcontractor isn’t necessarily bad, but you’ll want to vet the subcontractor the same way you did the roofer.
2. Pick a Contractor Who’s Willing to Do Their Homework
No contractor can give you an accurate, reliable quote without thoroughly understanding the job. Beware of any contractor who gives you a quote without ever setting foot on your roof. Go a step further and do your own homework as well to begin the conversation with the right information.
3. Pay Attention to The Contract
The more detailed your contract is, the less likely you are to get hit with “surprise” upcharges. Some unscrupulous roofers pad their profits by coming back after work has begun to ask for additional money to cover “unexpected” expenses. And, while marking up supplies is common and expected in roof management, outrageous markups are another way to pad profits. Find out what’s common for your area and make sure any contract you’re considering is in line with that standard.
In addition, when you’re comparing contracts, make sure you’re using the proverbial “apples to apples” comparison. You can only compare contracts if factors like materials, labor, and timeline are broken down in the same way. If one contractor hauls away debris, for instance, and another doesn’t, that could wipe out any cost difference between the two. Finally, make sure the contract spells out the terms of payment. Preferably, you shouldn’t make the final payment until after you’ve conducted an inspection.
4. Make Sure the Contractor Pulls a Permit
Almost all localities will require a permit for a new roof, and failing to get one can cause big problems down the road, especially if you ever want to sell the building. In addition, make sure the contractor pulls the permit either in his own name or in the name of the business. That ensures that the contract is the one responsible for the finished work.
5. Get a Lien Release
Some contractors don’t pay their suppliers until you pay them. And that’s not a problem as long as they pay. But if you pay the contractor and the contractor fails to pay the supplier, the supplier could come to you to get their money. Get a signed release that says you’re not responsible for nonpayment of the supplies.
6. Conduct a Final Inspection
And, if you’re not confident in your own ability to tell the difference between a professional job and shoddy work, arrange for a third-party inspection, such as one given by a representative of a local roofing organization.
Roof management is a major expense for any business. Protect yourself and your investment by choosing a reliable contractor who will do the job right and be ready to stand by his work, even years down the road.