Since 2017 there have been 21 official complaints of roofing scams in Williamson County and five official complaints since 2020 from Georgetown, all occurring after extreme weather conditions in the area, such as hail storms and the February winter storm, according to the Consumer Protection Division at the Office of the Attorney General of Texas.
While underreported, roofing scams tend to happen after extreme weather conditions when individuals referred to as storm chasers pose as local roofers promising to help consumers, then disappear having done no work and scamming residents out of as much as $20,000, according to the state.
“There are people that are embarrassed they got scammed; they don’t like to talk about it; so as a result, it doesn’t get reported,” Council Member Mike Triggs said.
Extreme weather conditions can often lead to roof damage, and the need for repairs increases. For example, following a hail storm in May 2020, the city of Georgetown saw an increase from the annual 400 re-roofing permits normally issued to 5,488, a 1,272% increase from the annual average, according to city records.Between Feb. 22 and June 28, the city has issued 291 re-roofing permits, many a result of damage from the February winter storm, according to city records.
The need for one service by a huge population can attract individuals who want to take advantage of the situation, Council Member Kevin Pitts said.“You have one event [that] can come in and cause damage that requires a very large percent[age] of the population to need one service,” Pitts said. “There’s going to be a lot of predators coming in for that prey.”
After a hail storm in April, several council members and local roofers received complaints that residents had been scammed by unknown roofers. Most of these complaints came from individuals in Sun City.
“We have a very vulnerable population out here in Sun City,” Council Member Steve Fought said. “When you get older you are a little bit more susceptible to fraud.”
Georgetown resident Jane Hayes said she lost approximately $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 higher 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 staff first brought the issue of roof scams and storm chasers to Georgetown City Council on April 13 when staff asked for direction on how to proceed to change the current contractor registration program to help solve the issue.
The current contractor registration program allows contractors to register for a one-time use permit with no fee, and the only document needed is a copy of their driver’s license, Georgetown Chief Building Official Glen Holcomb said. The Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation does not require roofing contractors to be licensed.Gary Brown of Hometown Roofing Pros, a Georgetown roofer who brought the issue to council, proposed the contractor registration application include fingerprinting, background checks and proof of insurance.
“We need to protect the citizens from frivolous roofers coming into the area after a large storm,” he said. “[We need to set] a standard that puts stronger guidelines to protect the citizens.”
City Council further deliberated during its May 25 meeting.
Local roofers Mike Pickle of Texas Traditions Roofing and Mike Cochran of Apex Roofing spoke to council and displayed their support for a contractor registration system that would protect citizens and help the roofers who are following the law and stop those who are not.
“How can we form a system that will protect the residents of Georgetown from getting ripped off?” Pickle said. “We want to put together a system that protects the clients.”
Council Member Shawn Hood expressed concern that there might not be an actual issue.
“We don’t have the complaints for it,” Hood said at the May 25 meeting. “Are we in search of a solution for a problem that doesn’t fully exist?”
Despite the lack of official complaints, some council members and roofers said they believe the city needs to protect residents.
“I think we have to educate people, too, that they just don’t hire a roofer that pounds at their doors,” Triggs told Community Impact Newspaper. “They should be checking to make sure that people have gone through the right procedures.”
In a June 8 email newsletter, Fought said the city should offer guidance on expectation for roofers and distribute a list of trustworthy contractors in the area.Complaints filed with the consumer protection division reveal that scammers would offer to waive the deductible, ask for cash up front, ask for the insurance check and disappear as soon as checks were cashed.
“I paid a deposit of $1,500 to have my roof repaired,” one complaint stated. “Not only have they not made an attempt to begin the job, but they will also not return my money.”
Another complainant lost $22,177 when they were asked to pay up front for supplies, according to the complaint.
Community Impact Newspaper attempted to contact more residents who reported complaints, but all declined to speak on the record or use their names. As of July 12, City Council has not made any decision regarding the current contractor registration program.