The most expensive component of your home is your roof. If you’re thinking about getting a full roof replacement or even a repair job, the local roofing contractor that you consider hiring is not something that should be taken lightly. When you hire a good roofing contractor they will use top-quality roofing materials, the right roofing tools and equipment, and will provide professional installation techniques to ensure that the final result will add value to your home. However, some homeowner’s do, unfortunately, make the mistake of hiring the wrong contractor. The majority of homeowners have a horror story about a horrible contractor and their experience with them. Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of unqualified, unlicensed, or even scam artist roofers advertising their services. Hiring the wrong contractor can cause significant damage to your home and will cost a great deal of money to get it redone.
What’s the real risk of bad contractors?
Hiring a good contractor is very important when you’re looking for the best quality for your home. A roof is what truly makes a place a home and a shelter from the elements. One of the most important indicators of a good roofing contractor is that they have the right credentials, for instance, valid insurance. A bad contractor won’t be able to provide you with valid insurance which most likely puts you, the homeowner, in a predicament. Let’s say that there was accidental damage to your home or someone got injured during the job, the matter can become ugly without having any insurance.
Another issue that should be considered is the warranties provided on both the labor and the materials used. If you are only covered for one and not the other, if something is amiss you will end up paying out of pocket for work and materials you already paid for. One of the biggest issues with hiring the wrong roofing contractor is that it can result in a financial disaster. Even though you may pay more for a quality roofing contractor and quality home repair work, it’s worth every penny in the end. A great deal isn’t always a great deal in the long run.
Using a roofing contractor without a license
Knowing that getting a roof done can be extremely expensive, a full roof replacement can cost upwards of $10,000 and a lot more on a larger building or commercial roof. Therefore, some property owners decide to go to a local roofing contractor who would charge for less. Which in many cases result in having a local roofing contractor who is unlicensed. Unlicensed roofing contractors are often likely to be less expensive than those who are properly licensed and insured.
Unfortunately, taking this kind of financial shortcut with choosing a cheaper contractor could cost you a lot more than you realized. Therefore, when choosing a roofing contractor the first thing that you should do is make sure that they are licensed. Contractors who don’t have the proper training, knowledge, and expertise to be working on roofs may try to take roofing jobs without a license because they don’t have the necessary skills to become licensed. Going with a contractor like this means that you would be trusting your roof with someone that is going to do an inferior job. Poor workmanship often leads to more expensive repairs down the road where you need to have the original work redone. Depending upon where you live, hiring an unlicensed roofing contractor could also land you in hot water legally as well. If your unlicensed contractor fails to complete the job, you may be prevented from using them. And in some states, hiring an unlicensed roofing contractor can carry fines up to $5,000 as well, which could lead your cost-cutting techniques to backfire in a big way.
Lack of Certification
Many manufacturers that provide roofing products and shingles, such as GAF, offer certification to roofers. When a local roofing contractor has certification it means that the roofer has learned the necessary things to properly install their products. This often makes them a candidate for offering extended manufacturer’s warranties. A roofer who isn’t taking the time to get a proper state license would unlikely follow-through on a manufacturer certification as well. Therefore, it’s more than likely that you’re hiring an amateur who is untrained in installing the specific roofing materials that they are putting on your roof. And if something were to go wrong, you won’t be covered by the extended warranties that can help give you peace of mind and offset the cost of future repairs.
You may be liable for unpaid bills
Unlicensed local roofing contractors typically may fail to pay their subcontractors or their suppliers after the work is done. Unfortunately, that may leave you in the position of needing to pay them, even if you’ve already paid for the work in full. This can result in a lien being put on your property until you settle the bills. Remember, you often can’t take an unlicensed roofing contractor to court, so you have no recourse to pursue him if he doesn’t pay his bills.
A lien is a notice attached to your property informing everyone that you owe the creditor money. It may seem essentially unfair that you can possibly end up paying for the general contractor’s irresponsible behavior. The justification for allowing the mechanic’s lien in the first place is that between the person with an improved property which would be you the homeowner and the person who supplied your new roof, the supplier’s need to get paid is greater. The law also concludes that you can, in turn, sue the general contractor. While this is true, this doesn’t really help you in the short-run. Suppose a supplier places a mechanic’s lien against your house because the general contractor failed to pay him when the general contractor lost all his money. You can certainly go file a lawsuit against the general contractor, and over time maybe garnish his wages or force him to sell his property, but that takes time and wringing money out of someone who doesn’t pay his subcontractors and suppliers can be difficult. Meanwhile, you owe twenty thousand dollars and have a matter of days or months to pay the supplier or else your house will be sold to satisfy the mechanic’s lien against you.
How do you protect yourself against a mechanic’s lien?
Here are three ways to help protect you and your investment:
- Make sure you have a list of all the subcontractors, laborers and material suppliers that your primary contractor will be using, and ask for proof that everyone has been paid before releasing your final payment, otherwise you could be held liable.
- Before making any partial or final payment to your contractor, ask for a Release of Lien or Partial Release of Lien and Affidavit. This just simply means that it reduces the amount claimed to be owed. These will either indicate that the contractor has paid all laborers or list out who is still owed money and how much. If you pay the subcontractor or laborers directly, make sure to get a release of lien.
- Even if your state doesn’t require a written agreement, ask for one. Also, keep in mind that contract requirements vary by state. It should be clear and concise and include the who, what, where, when and cost of your project. It’s not a bad idea to have an attorney review the contract before you present one or sign one.
Can a homeowner file a lien against a contractor?
Not all mechanic’s liens that contractors file against a homeowner to secure payment are right. Sometimes, there can be a genuine dispute between the contractor, subcontractor, and/or owner about what exactly is owed and due. However, there are some instances where there is a subcontractor, contractor or even a supplier who exaggerates the amount of the lien that they filed. There can be a case where the lien amount is intentionally exaggerated, or filed with no legal basis. When dealing with a frivolously filed mechanics lien, there are some states that have legislation that specifically prohibits willfully exaggerated liens. New Jersey for instance, has a statute that creates liability for those who file such liens. They can face damages and penalties, and their lien can be stricken.
No permissions or permits
If a local roofing contractor is willing to work without pulling a building permit or completing the proper inspections, he’s not doing so to save your time or money. It’s typically because he is not qualified to pull the roofing permit, or he knows that he is doing sub-par work that won’t pass inspection. Whether performing re-roofing or new construction, when a contractor does not pull permits you are at risk for penalties, code compliance issues, possible tear out, the cost of rework and potentially the loss of a home sale. Depending on the type of roofing job, and whether the homeowner chooses the do it yourself option or hires a contractor, certain scopes of work will require construction permits. Failure to obtain necessary construction permits by either you or your contractor may become a safety issue or an unexpected expense far in excess of the cost of the original building permit.
When you hire the wrong contractor the majority of the time they don’t pull permits for the scope of work required and so the homeowner becomes the responsible party, often with no penalty to the hired contractor. The local governing authority establishes how penalties are assessed. For instance, penalties can range from charging a homeowner double the original fee for tearing out the complete work for an inspection. While passing off unpermitted renovations to a potential unsuspecting home buyer is nothing new, the seller’s maneuver will often be exposed by a qualified home inspector. If discovered, you may be required to provide evidence of valid permits for the work on a file with the local governing authority.
While a reputable contractor will complete the necessary steps to obtain a building permit and local city, county, or state permission for the jobs completed, an unlicensed contractor won’t. This can mean major problems down the road should you decide to sell your home. Even if you don’t sell, you could be held liable should something bad happen on your property due to faulty and illegal construction practices.