A North Texas lawmaker is trying to protect homeowners from being ripped off in the wake of hail storms like those that struck over the weekend.
State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, proposed House Bill 3293 to create a voluntary state certification for roofers, hoping to end problems that crop up year after year in Texas.
First storms pound an area, such as the hail and rain that hit Denton and Collin counties Sunday, then roofers and other contractors swarm the area hoping to pick up business.
Overwhelmed homeowners quickly pick someone to fix their roof and may find themselves disappointed with expensive, shoddy — or incomplete — work.
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“Look at what happened with (Sunday) night’s storms, golf-ball-size hail hitting residences, smashing roofs, breaking windows,” Capriglione said. “Within 24 hours those homeowners will be inundated by roofers who will say they can fix it and do a great job.
“I think some people will get snookered.”
Already, law enforcers in Denton, Argyle and other cities are tweeting out tips for homeowners to avoid being scammed by “storm chasers,” out-of-towners who follow storms and try to convince homeowners to hire them to fix their homes.
Many times those workers will do sub-par work, if they even stay long enough to complete the job.
State and law enforcement advice: Don’t pay cash or a down payment before materials arrive. And if estimators show up, but you didn’t call them, steer clear of them.
Hire local, established businesses you can trust, officials advise.
“We have a lot of storm chasing roofers who show up after storms hit,” said Mark Hanna, a spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas. “They are going to rip people off. They are trying to get some of that person’s insurance claim money.
“They are just coming in off the street and you have no idea about the quality of their work, the material they are using and whether they are going to be there the next day,” Hanna said. “Go local. Work with people who have built up their business and reputation locally. Then you know where to turn if there’s a problem.”
Capriglione said his bill would create a voluntary certification program statewide, in which roofers could show they are licensed by the state and have liability insurance.
Anyone who meets the criteria would receive a certificate showing that they are certified in Texas — and can show it to homeowners looking for roofers to fix their homes.
For now, especially after Sunday’s storms in North Texas, Capriglione encourages home owners dealing with roofers to ask workers the full name of their company, where they are located and whether they have any insurance.
Homeowners should also ask roofers for references.
Similar proposals have been filed in recent sessions and died. Capriglione himself filed a bill last session to create a similar certification, but he was unsuccessful.
“I know sometimes it takes the Legislature a few sessions to get on board,” he said. “But this is a critical piece of legislation that needs to pass.”
Other bills proposed regarding Texas disasters include Senate Bill 10, by state Sens. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, and about 20 senators including Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and Konni Burton, R-Colleyville.
This proposal is geared to reform the hailstorm litigation process.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott spoke at a Fort Worth luncheon Monday, noting that Sunday’s storms are a classic example of why “we need hailstorm litigation law.”
“Hail litigation has spiraled out of control in Texas, mainly because of a small group of bad actors who abuse the system,” Hancock said when filing the bill. “Senate Bill 10 will address this problem, improve transparency, and protect Texas consumers from sky-high premiums without infringing on their right to make an insurance claim or sue their insurance company when it’s not holding up its end of a deal.”
An identical bill, HB 1774, has been filed in the House.
These two bills, referred to as the “Blue Tarp Bills” have drawn criticism because they lessen penalties for insurers, according to Texas Watch, an Austin-based group geared toward ensuring that “corporations and insurance companies are accountable to their customers.”
“If insurance lobbyists have their way, Texas will be blanketed in blue tarps,” according to the message posted on the group’s website. “Help us stand up to insurance lobbyists and fight to preserve policyholder protections by signing the petition.”
The legislative session runs through May 29.
Disaster cleanup tips
The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America says the first step is contacting your insurance company to begin the claims process.
Secure your property, inventory your losses and check your insurance policy. When hiring contractors, ask for certificates of liability and workers compensation before moving forward with a company.
Workers to avoid: Those who ask for cash or for a down payment before materials arrive, those who show up but you didn’t call them, those who offer to pay your deductible and those who underbid everyone else, according to the Argyle Police Department.