We published a curated post on our Facebook page recently about the fact that the Missouri Senate is considering new legislation that would regulate the state’s roofing industry in a bid to clamp down on storm chasers and other unethical business practices.
Several people asked us about this, so we decided to write this blog post to answer questions on this topic.
Here are several questions and answers about the proposed bill to regulate the MO roofing industry, avoiding scams from unscrupulous contractors, and homeowners’ insurance:
According to The Office of the Missouri Attorney General, there were 1,300 Real Estate and Construction complaints in 2015. That’s 108 per month. The roofing industry is consistently rated as one of the top 10 disreputable industries by the Better Business Bureau. Why do you think scams or poor work are so prevalent in the industry?
I think that part of the answer to this has to do with some of the business models in our industry. I'll use the blanket term of "Storm Chaser," companies that set up shop right after a major storm. Whether it is under their company name or a "new" name that may have local keywords in it, they move in quickly with large marketing budgets and a lot of sales reps out in the field knocking on doors. The downside to these types of companies is that they are not incentivized to care about customer service. In 3 to 6 months, they pack up their shop and leave town for the next storm.
The sales person that knocks on your door may live in Maryland or Texas or Florida, and they are only here to sign contracts, make as much money as possible, and then they head back home. Since they will not be around in a few months, it's much more about their bottom-line than it is about serving the customer. Whereas local companies have a reputation to worry about, so if there is customer service issues, local companies will be much more responsive to the customer and work to resolve the issue, because they will still be here in a month or 3 months when everyone else has left.
Further, especially after a large storm event, you will have a lot of people that weren't roofers yesterday put magnets on their truck and "become" a roofing company. Sometimes it is the general contractors that want to make some extra money, other times it can be a company that specializes in siding that decides they can make some quick money subbing roofs. Either way, when working with companies like this, it is really important for the consumer to do their research.
The bill proposes a voluntary, rather than mandatory, registry for the state’s roofers, and would require companies to hold proof of insurance, basic identification and to indicate membership in the St. Louis-based Roofers and Siding Contractors Alliance. Do you think voluntary registry is the way to go, or should this be mandatory?
It's a step in the right direction, but I don't think it goes far enough. Unless there is a large campaign to inform the consumer, a lot of consumers probably wouldn't know the difference between a company who is registered and one that isn't. Further, one that isn't registered can always say "That's not a requirement and all they are trying to do is drive memberships to the Roofers and Siding Contractors Alliance."
I understand that any form of regulation can be seen as a barrier to entry for an industry, and I do not want to discourage competition (competition allows an industry to become all-around better), but our industry needs a framework of rules and regulations for the state of Missouri. The things I have seen other roofers do (like not install felt -- yeah, I'm looking at you home builders!) is absolutely absurd. They are installing the absolute bare minimum in hopes that it doesn't leak during their warranty period. That does not serve consumers at all, and can leave them with a large repair bill down the road.
This bill is similar to The Kansas Roofing Registration Act, which was enacted in 2013 and requires roofing contractors to apply for a roofing contractor registration certificate before performing commercial or residential roofing services. In 2015, general contractors who meet the criteria outlined in 2015 HB 2254 are not required to register. Do you agree with this, or do you think general contractors should have to register, too?
I am not a lawyer, but I have briefly read through the Kansas legislation and it seems that it has a lot more teeth than the "Voluntary" solution that Missouri is currently contemplating. There are some contractors -- even locally owned in St. Louis -- that have a not-so-good reputation. If they were under the threat of having their license revoked, I would imagine that they would be incentivized to serve customers better.