SPRINGFIELD – There is always a possibility of severe weather during the summer months – weather that can and often does cause major damage to homes and businesses. Once the storm is over, Illinois homeowners are likely to face the arrival of unscrupulous contractors who seek to prey on desperate owners.
“When disaster strikes, a family’s first instinct is to get repairs underway as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, predators understand that desire and take advantage of families trying to restore their homes,” said Manuel Flores, Acting Secretary of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). “Using licensed professionals will help protect homeowners.”
A law signed by Governor Quinn in 2011 helps protect homeowners from contractors who prey on individuals following natural disasters. Unlicensed contractors travel to towns after natural disasters and target homeowners, especially elderly citizens, through home repair scams. These contractors misrepresent themselves in order to persuade homeowners to sign contracts for home repairs. If the work is done at all, it oftentimes must be redone due to its poor quality.
The law prohibits roofing contractors from allowing out of state roofing contractors to lease their license numbers for compensation. It also requires roofing contractors to include their license number on all contracts, bids and advertisements. Additionally, the law enables residents to cancel a contract and requires contractors to refund any payments within 10 days of the cancellation.
Finally, before hiring any roofing company, check IDFPR.com license lookup to make sure that a roofing company is licensed and in good standing with the State of Illinois. Consumers are highly encouraged to hire licensed roofing companies because they are required to hold insurance and perform work that meets minimum industry standards. A comprehensive list of licensed roofers, sorted by county is also available.
Licensed roofers are also required to have the name of their firm properly identified on their trucks and must use their license number on any advertising or marketing materials. General contractors are not permitted to provide roofing services unless they also have an active roofing contractor license. Finally, unlicensed roofing is a criminal offense and first offenders can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and be sentenced to up to 364 days in prison. Subsequent violations are Class 4 felonies that could result in1-3 years’ incarceration.
Other tips for dealing with storm damage
After a heavy thunder storm, tornado or other natural disaster, families and business owners should take additional care when hiring a contractor to repair any damage:
• Take immediate steps to prevent additional damage to buildings but do not get rid of damaged materials until after an insurance company assessment of damage.
• Make sure any damage is repaired by reputable contractors; check with local building departments or the Better Business Bureau for guidance.
• Make sure roofers are licensed and in good standing with IDFPR
• Don't rush into signing a contract. Collect a number of written estimates for the job.
• Notify the insurance company immediately and work with its representative to evaluate the damage and review your policies for coverage information.
• If there is major damage due to storms or flooding in a community, the county may be eligible for disaster assistance. To learn more about that visit ready.illinois.gov