Avoid being victimized by following these steps:
Don’t allow an unlicensed contractor to make repairs. Following a disaster declaration, anyone working as an unlicensed contractor is committing a third-degree felony.
Ask to see a contractor’s license before requesting a bid. Make sure the company name on the permit matches the name on the contract. The name on the license and on the insurance must match the roofer’s identification.
Call to make sure the contractor’s license is current. After a storm, the state may allow counties to issue temporary licenses for licensed roofing contractors from other states or Florida counties, but even temporary licenses should be verified. State- or county-certified general, building or residential contractors may also allowed to do limited re-roof work.
Ask to see a contractor’s liability and workers compensation insurance. Make sure both are in the name of the person doing the work and on the contract. You may have to pay for bids. Many roofers charge $50 to $125, but most will deduct the cost from the contract price. Don’t agree to obtain an owner/builder permit. It can be a signal that your contractor isn’t licensed.
Try to get two or three written bids. The bids should specify what work will be done, and the materials to be used. This may be difficult at a time when roofers are scarce. Be wary of low-ball bids or “limited-time offers.”
If your contractor insists on a down payment, it should be no more than 20 percent to 50 percent. Never pay in cash.
Read your contract carefully. Many contracts have escalation clauses which pass increasing costs of materials on to clients.
Know how much extra you’ll be expected to pay. Don’t sign a contract you don’t understand or which has blank spaces.
Check your permit before work begins. Make sure it specifies the same materials that are in your contract.
After work begins, check to be sure you’re getting what you’re paying — and are permitted — for.
Before making final payment, ask for a copy of the release of lien and certificate of completion. The release shows that suppliers and contractors have been paid and can’t place a lien on your property. The certificate shows a final inspection was made.
CHECKING YOUR ROOF
Do not climb onto the roof until you know it is stable and that there are no downed power lines on it or unstable tree limbs above it. If you do go on the roof, wear rubber-soled shoes with good grips. Make a note of broken tiles or shingles, bent metal flashing or other damage.
Inside, inspect your attic, walking only on the wooden supports. Look for leaks, cracked supports or broken tie-downs. A plastic tarp, nailed into place, will stop further leaks until repairs are made. Take pictures. Call your insurance company as soon as possible.
BUILDING CODE COMPLIANCE
Palm Beach: (561) 233-5108, www.pbcgov.com/pzb/building
Martin: (772) 288-5916, www.martin.fl.us (click ‘Government’ then ‘Building Department’)
St. Lucie: (772) 462-1553, www.stlucieco.gov/public_works/permitting.htm
Okeechobee: (863) 763-5548, www.co.okeechobee.fl.us
— Barbara Marshall