Dealing with Non-QLC Companies After a Hail Storm
What Is a Non-QLC?
I think that I’ve convinced you why using Storm Chasing company is not a good idea and that you should always try to work with qualified local professionals (QLCs). The problem is that when a storm hits your area- a lot of local contractors (handymen, gutter cleaners etc.) or roofers with no storm damage experience will offer their storm restoration “expertise”. Although these contractors are legitimately local they still might lack the key characteristics to be considered a QLC and there is a very good chance that they will not be able to handle the complex hail or wind damage restoration project in the manner that you should expect, since most of them fall short on the important qualities of the QLC (listed above).
Your average hometown contractor has ties to the community and thus supports the local economy (the money doesn’t go out of state) and you’ll have a much greater chance of getting a hold of the contractor after the storm is over if any problems arise. This kind of contractor is also more likely to have the local and state licenses required for your area as well as the knowledge of the local building codes and regulations.
Here are some scenarios that I’ve seen happen to customers who thought they had a Qualified Local Contractor but ended up with a non-QLC:
A lien can be put on your home by contractors (aka mechanics lien or construction lien), subcontractors/crews (laborer’s lien) and/or vendors- material supply companies (material man’s lien or supplier’s lien). Some scenarios are:
Scenario 1: Poor Workmanship or Not Meeting Contract Obligations
The contractor does a poor job or doesn’t live up to the contract (for one reason or another) and oftentimes your only recourse is to not pay the balance of the contract until the work is done properly.
A lot of Non-QLCs and Storm Chasers will put a lien on your house regardless of the poor quality of the work performed.
Imagine this same contractor working on 50-80 projects in a one month period and a lot of the jobs are done with low quality subcontractors or crews. If that happens on multiple jobs, the contractor would not have enough money to pay crews, salespeople, and/or materials supply companies. This is how many contractors go out of business in the storm industry and leave many unsuspecting homeowners with low quality roofs, siding, and gutters.
To add insult to injury, the homeowner gets a lien put on their home!
Scenario 2: Underestimating Repairs or Giving Too Many Things Away
The salesperson underestimates the cost of a job or gives too many freebies/extras (shingle upgrades, free gutter guards, covering insurance deductibles, etc.) or the insurance company doesn’t approve everything the salesperson anticipated.
These examples and many others can make a contractor lose money on the storm damage job. If this happens to the contractor on multiple projects, eventually the contractor will not be able to pay their supply company or the crews for the materials and/or labor for the roof, siding, and gutter jobs they completed.
Unfortunately this scenario unfolds very often for companies that are not used to handling multiple jobs in a very short amount of time (they can’t handle the volume), they become inefficient and the quality suffers. When this happens, contractors don’t get paid (money isn’t released to them because of poor workmanship or not living up to their agreements). Many times these contractors that “work the storm” to make a quick buck find themselves between a rock and a hard place: they are owed big amounts of money for the work and materials but they can’t collect this money and thus they can’t pay their suppliers and/or crews for the materials and labor.
If the crew believes that they are not going to get paid, their only leverage over the contractor is to put a lien on your home. Likewise, the supply company will put a lien on your house if the contractor can’t pay for the materials.
When a contractor finds themselves in a situation where they lose their credit, they lose their crews (due to non-payment) and can’t collect any more money from the homeowner- they usually file bankruptcy, dissolve their company (they just disappear) or they simply ignore the calls because they are so overwhelmed with problems.
Scenario 3: Poor Money Management On The Part Of a Contractor
The homeowner has paid the restoration job in full and he/she thinks everything is fine but the crews and/or the supply companies still may put liens on the house if they didn’t get paid by the contractor (which usually happens due to poor money management).
If you have a lien on your house, you can’t sell your house, you can’t refinance until that lien is released, you can’t get loans, and you might have a hard time getting any credit approved.
You will be responsible for your contractor’s missteps if a lien is placed on your house, and if the contractor is out of business you will have no recourse.
And once you want to sell your house you can’t because the title is clouded and you will have to satisfy the lien which usually means paying the crew and/or the supplier (again!) to release the lien.
So, why would a contractor, subcontractor or supplier place liens in a first place? Simply put they place liens on a property because they haven’t been paid. Whether it is justified to put a lien or not. This is one of the few tools a contractor, subcontractor or the supplier has to collect the money without the expense of a lawsuit.
The problem is that some contractors use this legal instrument to their advantage. A reputable Qualified Local Contractor who stands behind their work and goes above and beyond to make their customer happy would only use a lien as a last resort.
Homeowner- Contractor Disputes
When homeowners choose a contractor and sign a contract they don’t usually realize all the possible nightmares that can occur. Choosing the contractor is more important than most people realize. In fact a majority of all lawsuits filed by homeowners are related to the construction industry.
Some scenarios or examples that unethical or inexperienced companies do tospark lawsuits from a homeowner are:
- Use a lower(than agreed to) quality product and/or cut corners during the install (thus invalidating the manufacturer warranty).
- The crew starts the project, tears the roof off the house, and then it rains, ruining the interior.
- The contractor doesn’t complete the work for various reasons.
- The contractor will take the deposit money and leave without any work done at all.
- Contractor doesn’t live up to their warranty after the work is completed (leaks, poor workmanship, etc.).
Even if you do win your court case, very few homeowners end up collecting the money because the contractors rarely have any assets (or they can’t be found), files bankruptcy protection, or go out of business.
The courts and the internet are flooded with nightmare construction stories. And most of the time the nightmare started because the homeowner hired a wrong contractor- the price was the major concern.
Tip: Although price is always important (and that’s what most people look at first)- the quality of the materials, contractor’s experience, longevity of the contractor, the experience of the crew performing the work, as well as the warranty associated with the work should all have equal importance.
Your warranty is very much like your homeowner’s insurance policy; you really find out how good your warranty is once before you need to use it. There are three types of warranties in the home improvement industry, some of the warranties are excellent, some are ok, and others aren’t worth the paper they are written on. The three different types of the warranties are:
- Independent(Manufacturer) Warranty: This is when the manufacturer holds the labor and material warranty for 20 plus years. Even if the contractor goes out of business, the labor and material warranty is still in effect because the manufacturer is liable for the warranty.
For example, if a contractor wins the lottery or gets hit by a bus, your warranty is still valid because the warranty is guaranteed by the manufacturer, not the contractor. So if you got a roof leak or you have a concern about your roof, you can contact the manufacturer directly.
- Contractor Warranty: This is when a contractor holds the labor and material warranty for a specific period of time. These warranties can be risky for various reasons:
- Many contractors go out of business, and the warranty becomes useless.
- The contractor refuses to make the proper repairs because he/she claims it’s not his fault.
- The contractor may do a “caulk job”, meaning they will put some caulking over the area and hope it takes care of the problem. Caulk jobs are temporary solutions to a permanent problem. Many times the contractor does this to placate the problem until the warranty expires.
- Tail-light Warranty: This means that you have a warranty for as long as you can see contractor’s tail-lights. Once the tail-lights are out of sight, so is your warranty. I’m still surprised by the amount of salespeople that can convince homeowners that their company has a valid warranty, when in reality that company has no intentions of honoring the warranty. They simply will tell you and write down on paper anything it will take for you to sign the contract and collect the deposit.
The main goal of this article is to teach homeowners how to find a reputable contractors (QLCs) that are able to offer an independent warranty as well as how to identify the tail-light warranty companies (i.e. Storm Chasers etc.).
Code violations are another scenario that is usually not caught until the homeowner tries to sell the home. Because an interested buyer will get a home inspection and any code violation will be pointed out at that time, the homeowner will be responsible to bring the home up to code and it’s very hard to have any recourse toward any contractor well after the fact, especially if you are dealing with Storm Chaser or other fly-by-night companies. Some common code violations are:
- Plywood decking used in replacement is not thick enough
- Ice and water shield is not installed at all or installed incorrectly
- Plywood clips are not used
- Inadequate amount of underlayment paper was used on the roof
- Inadequate shingle installation (not enough nails in the shingles)
Homeowner’s Association (HOA) Disputes:
It is ultimately the responsibility of the homeowner to get the approval from their Homeowner’s Association on the types of roofing material, color, siding type, and/or windows. If you and/or your contractor go ahead and install/repair a roof, siding and/or windows without HOA’s approval and if it doesn’t meet their specifications, the Homeowner’s Association can make you replace the roof again at your own expense. The same is true for siding and windows.
Substandard Labor and Materials:
As mentioned above, a majority of all lawsuits filed by homeowners are home improvement complaints, and most of these lawsuits are due to substandard work and/or materials. It truly is a “buyer beware” industry. Here are some of the things to watch out for:
- Substandard Labor:
- Wrinkled felt.
- Flashing improperly replaced or not replaced at all.
- Using staples instead of nails to install shingles.
- Racking of shingles.
- Improper installation of nails – high and/or low nails, not enough nails installed.
- Improper installation of valleys.
- Insufficient overhang of shingles on rake edges and eaves.
- Improper installation of ice and water shield or no installation at all.
- Leave exposed nails unsealed.
- Improper chimney and wall flashing.
- Siding that’s nailed too tight and too loose.
- Siding nails are not long enough.
- Gutters not installed with screws.
- Gutters only installed into the fascia board.
- Improper attic ventilation.
- Low Quality Materials:
- Cheap, low quality shingles.
- Thin-gauged flashing (flimsy metal).
- Plywood decking that doesn’t meet the code(too thin).
- Nails that rust.
- Low tensile-strength siding.
- Inexpensive/low quality felt that tends to wrinkle.
Addressing Inevitable Issues:
In the construction industry there will be accidents or problems that pop-up from time to time, whether it’s a Qualified Local Contractor or a Storm Chasing company performing the work- it’s the nature of the industry. At a minimum, the smallest problems can cause great frustration and distrust, while at the worst, the larger problems could cost you thousands of dollars. What separates a QLC from a non-QLC is how they handle the issues/problems. A Qualified Local Contractor will address them immediately, fix any problems that they caused, and many times will leave the homeowner happier than they were before the incident occurred while a Non-QLC often doesn’t have enough resources (or integrity) to fix the issues.
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