The brutal winter of 2022/23 battered many, many roofs in our area and with a dearth of available roofers, homeowners are struggling to get their rooftops fixed. Thus, when Lance Martin, a Tahoe Donner second homeowner, received a postcard advertising a $375 roof tune-up, he jumped at the chance.
“I knew roofing people were in high demand, so I booked him,” Martin wrote to Moonshine Ink in an email. “He was also to look at the chimney of my gas stove which bent from the snow load.”
While Martin was away from the house, he received a bill and a letter stating the contractor “had tuned the roof, fixed the chimney and that my roof was in great condition for another five years,” Martin said. “Upon returning to Truckee I noticed some transition metal on the roof was hanging off which made me suspicious. It certainly wasn’t in good repair and a heavy snowfall would probably rip the entire piece down.”
Moonshine reached out several times to the contractor who performed the work and received no response.
Martin received confirmation of his suspicions a couple of months later. “I sold my house last month and had a roofing contractor look at it and the roofing contractor said the repairs were not good and needed to be redone,” he said.
This experience didn’t surprise Edward Vento, executive director at the Contractor’s Association of Truckee Tahoe.
“There’s still hundreds upon hundreds of houses that still need roof work done from the last winter, and we’re about to enter the next one. And so it’s a crisis,” said Vento said. “And anytime there’s a crisis, there’s people looking to take advantage, you know? A lot of the legitimate roofers are very busy and people take advantage of that. They try to bring in subpar contractors, with not very well-trained workers.”
To protect yourself and your home, Vento recommends calling your local association when embarking on any home repairs or work. CATT covers the North Lake Tahoe/Truckee region. All CATT members are vetted by the organization, which makes sure the businesses are legal and have a license. Homeowners can check out a prospective contractor on the CATT directory online to see if they are legit.
Not all contractors are going to be in this directory. In the case of Martin’s roofer, the contractor’s license is registered in Grass Valley and he is not a CATT member. Which means you may be rolling the dice, Vento said.
“You don’t find out sometimes until after the work’s been done and the inspection, you know, the inspector comes out. Or even worse, you know, you get another winter and it’s leaking all over the place or blowing away,” he said. “Before you get to there, it’s just doing your homework. Unfortunately, you’re gonna get bombarded.”
Big winters and other natural hazard events tend to bring unscrupulous contractors out of the woodwork. “What I’ve seen across the country is that any time there’s a severe weather incident or other natural disaster people start targeting homeowners because they want to get that insurance money,” Vento said.
Below are two resources from the California Contractors State License Board that Vento endorsed as ways to make sure you hire the right contractor.
- Hire only state-licensed contractors.
- Check a contractor’s license number online at cslb.ca.gov or by calling (800) 321-CSLB (2752).
- Obtain at least three bids.
- Get three references from each bidder and review past work in person.
- Make sure all project expectations are in writing and only sign the contract if you completely understand the terms.
- Confirm that the contractor has workers’ compensation insurance for employees.
- Avoid paying more than 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less. Avoid paying in cash.
- Avoid letting payments get ahead of the work.
- Keep a job file of all papers relating to your project, including all payments.
- Avoid making the final payment until you’re satisfied with the job.
- Avoid rushing into repairs, no matter how badly they are needed.
- Obtain at least three bids. Avoid hiring the first contractor who comes along.
- Be cautious about door-to-door offers of repair services and fliers or business cards that are left at your property.
- Ask friends, family, and associates for recommendations about contractors they have hired.
- Avoid paying in cash.
- Even for small jobs, seek proof that the person you are dealing with has a contractor’s license for the type of work that needs to be done.
- Enter into a written contract that details every aspect of the work and payment plan.