Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said his office has received a handful of reports that out-of-state repairmen are posing as local roofing companies to solicit for Oklahoma jobs.
“Any time we experience property damage from severe weather the potential for home repair fraud increases,” Edmondson said in an announcement released by the AG’s office. “We consistently warn homeowners to only do business with home repair firms with roots in the community. It seems some fly-by-night operations have taken the advice to heart and are commandeering the names of established Oklahoma firms, sometimes even using the local companies’ logos and addresses.”
The reports are under investigation by Edmondon’s Consumer Protection Unit, but homeowners must remain vigilant.
“The best advice to homeowners is simple,” Edmondson said, “you make the call. Look up the repairman or contractor in the telephone book. Don’t trust the name and number on a business card or on a sign in someone’s yard. If you can, drive by the company’s physical location. Does the company work from an established storefront or from a travel trailer? Look for signs of permanency that show the company will still be here tomorrow.”
Edmondson says homeowners should consider the following tips:
- Ask people you trust for referrals.
- Check out the company with Better Business Bureau at BBB.org.
- Call the Attorney General’s Office to find out if any complaints have been filed against the company.
- Get written estimates from at least two firms.
- Don’t do business without a written contract.
- Don’t sign a contract with blank spaces or provisions you don’t understand.
- Get all guarantees, warranties and promises in writing.
- Agree on start and completion dates and have them written into the contract.
- Get names and addresses and check old phone books to see how long the company has been in business.
- Ask for proof of workers’ compensation and liability insurance.
- Don’t make final payments unless you are satisfied with the work.
- Make sure subcontractors have been paid by getting lien waivers.
- Don’t pay the entire contract up-front.
The attorney general said follow-up can be a major problem when a homeowner hires a transient company instead of a local business.
“Many repairmen make their living chasing storms across the country,” Edmondson said. “They sweep in after a damaging storm, grab as much work as they can get and then are gone in just a few weeks. The trouble comes when a homeowner later discovers a problem with the work, but the contractor can’t be found.”
Oklahoma does not currently require roofers to be licensed. Municipal ordinances can also come into play when dealing with home repair work. Oklahoma requires out-of-state corporations to register with the Secretary of State before doing business and some municipalities require permits for home repair work and door-to-door solicitations.
“Requirements can vary from city to city,” Edmondson said. “It’s important for homeowners to become familiar with these requirements.”
The attorney general said to be wary of contractors who:
- Solicit door-to-door.
- Offer discounts for finding other customers.
- Just happen to have” materials left over from a previous job.
- Accept only cash payments.
- Pressure you for an immediate decision.
- Ask you to pay for the entire job up-front.
- Only list a phone number or P.O. Box.
- Refuse to provide proof of insurance or a list of laborers or suppliers.
Source: Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office
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