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  • Writer's pictureJeff Butler

"But my neighbors got their roof done through insurance"

For years and years, storm restoration services were just a small part of our industry here in the Mid-Atlantic region. A (truly) severe storm would roll through every few years, causing concentrated pockets of hail or wind damage in the path of the storm. Out of nowhere, there would be 4 or 5 companies that would roll into town, canvas some neighborhoods and replace a portion of the damaged roofs and move on.

But then in 2018, things changed.

March 2nd, 2018, the DC Metro area had one of the most historically significant wind storms that had ever come through the region. I personally remember this for a couple reasons:

  1. The phone calls coming in the office were so stacked up that we couldn't even check the messages on the voicemail lines without new calls coming in.

  2. After working a 10+ hr day, I went home to a 70' tree laying on the back of my own house.

This storm ended up causing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage throughout the region, most of which being residential exterior damage. Now on one hand, business was booming for everyone, but on the other, the landscape of our industry in this region drastically changed. More importantly, the expectation of the typical homeowner changed.

Roofs are something that no one enjoys having to think about or pay for. It's an out of sight, out of mind, big ticket item. Of course as experts in the field, we always stress the importance of being proactive, and keeping up with maintenance or replacement BEFORE you encounter leaks or severe deterioration, but most people wait until there's an issue. As a homeowner, it was a very rare mindset to even associate replacing your roof with insurance funds. But 2018 changed that.

In the Tri-County region alone, countless new home improvement companies have popped-up since that storm of 2018, most labeling themselves as "Storm Restoration Specialists". We call them "Storm-Chasers". Now I do want to make it clear, we are not doing one of the old-man, shaky fist acts mad because there is more competition in the market.

That's not the problem. The issue is much deeper than that.

"A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business"

Don't get me wrong, no one feels bad for insurance companies. We all pay premiums every month, go years without any claims, and then one incident happens and boom, your rate goes up. Insurance companies are amongst the richest organizations in the world. But things have gotten out of hand.

We have always prided ourselves in doing business the right way. Consistent, honest, ethical businesses practices allow us to maintain a professional reputation, but also lay our heads down each and every night knowing that we did things the right way that day. But the same cannot be said for others in the industry.

We came to a point in the last few years where everyone knows someone either directly or through a buddy, that does storm restoration. That's fine and all, but many and most of these buddies have little to no experience in roofing or home improvement and simply took a restoration class to learn:

  1. What insurance companies will accept as storm damage. (This allows them to not only identify legitimate storm damage, but also enables dishonest contractors to mechanically damage your roof to make it look like wind damage.)

  2. How to use Xactimate estimating software

  3. How to get customers to sign an "Assignment of Benefits", or AOB form. Which is essentially a power of attorney over a homeowner's claim.

Then Voila! Maybe meet with a 3rd party inspector (which is quite often another buddy that used to work for a restoration company), schedule, install, collect commission, rinse and repeat.

"But why do I care about any of this if they can get my roof done and my insurance will pay for it all?"

I ask you this: Would you take your most expensive, important vehicle to a mechanic that has minimal experience and only knows how to change oil?

Maybe some would, and that's fine. But your roof is the single-most important component of your home, and one of the most expensive. Going with a company that has plenty of experience, a good reputation and longevity makes whatever warranty you get on your investment ACTUALLY worth more than the paper it is written on. If you have an issue pop up several years down the road, is that contractor going to even still be around? If they are, do they have a service department that can come promptly and actually assess and know how to fix the problem? All important factors to think about.

One last thing that we have heard a bunch over the last few years, mostly when we get a service call to fix a roof that a random restoration company did, is, "I would have went with a company like yours, but they told me only certified restoration companies can work with your insurance".

Any licensed contractor can work with your insurance company. All you have to do is forward your proposal, or give the adjuster permission to adjust the claim with your contractor of choice, and the adjuster and contractor can work out the details.

The Aftermath

Well after your roof is installed, the yard is cleaned up and life has moved on, the ramifications of an insurance claim can trickle down. You may have one of the better insurance companies and a clean loss record, so that your rates won't directly increase because of your claim. You were able to get that big budget home improvement item taken care of and reinvest those funds into something else for your home or leisure.

Or not.

Lately, there has been an uptick in homeowners insurance rates beginning to creep up nationwide. Surprising? Not at all. Has there been a sudden increase in severe weather and storms in our area over the last few years? Not really in terms of historical data. But has there been a massive, exponential increase in homeowners insurance claims? Absolutely. When there's a massive increase in paid losses by these insurance companies over the course of several years, they are going to find a way to recoup their losses. They are, after all, in the business of making money.

Furthermore, we have been seeing a sharp increase in insurance companies assessing roofs prior to policy renewal time and requiring homeowners to replace their older roofs or face termination of coverage. This is another way for the insurance company to avoid having to pay for a roof loss that may be mostly due to the age of the roof, and less due to one or two slightly lifted shingles from the thunderstorm that rolled through last week.

The final complication the storm restoration craze has caused involves expectations. There is so much variance in visible storm damage from roof to roof on the same street in the same neighborhood, that you may end up watching the neighbor on each side of you get their roofs covered, and yours gets denied. How is that possible? There are several factors to consider:

  1. Who is your insurance company? Some companies are very stingy with paying for storm related losses. Your choice of coverage with your company is also a factor.

  2. Who came out and performed the independent inspection? Some of these inspectors are willy-nilly with their assessments, or maybe have a standing relationship with your contractor that will carry the approval, while others have seen so many cases of sketchy contractors mechanically damaging your roof during their "free inspection" that they are immediately dismissive that you may actually have storm related damage on your roof.

  3. Your roof might just be old. If you have had previous repairs performed on your 25 year old roof, your insurance company will probably not cover your replacement since your roof is at the end of its lifespan.

I won't get into the weeds too much on all the roofs that we've seen that were able to get new roofs because of contractors manually creating what looks like wind damage, or how many instances of insurance companies pursuing vandalism charges after the fact, but it's a real thing, and it can get homeowners involved in a messy situation on the back end.

Well that was intimidating....

At the end of the day, we all pay for homeowners insurance for the same purpose: to help us pay for expensive projects caused by unforseen circumstances. As a contractor, we have replaced hundreds of roofs over the last 5 or 6 years that were funded by insurance claims, so by no means are we anti-insurance.

But we're anti-bad/ illegitimate business.

As we have on a banner of the homepage on our website, "We won't knock down your door, but we'll be there when you call". True and honest assessments from experienced contractors with longevity is what we encourage all homeowners to seek. You have to not only have a contractor that can help you plan the design and funding of your project, but also be there in the long run if an issue does arise. Never work with a contractor that pressures you, and never sign anything with a contractor that just knocked on your door, especially after a storm.

So whether with us (hopefully) or another reputable contractor, always do your research on who you are trusting with your hard earned money (or insurance companies money). If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.


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