07/06/14 — Officers say: Be careful when contracting for roofing service

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Officers say: Be careful when contracting for roofing service

By John Joyce
Published in News on July 6, 2014 1:50 AM

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Pictured, a roof on a residential structure on John Street that requires new shingles. In this extreme case, there may also be structural damage. If you are dealing with a repair big or small, it is important to check the contractor's references.

The contracts have been signed.

The money has been paid, but the roofers have come and gone and the job isn't finished.

Telephone calls and emails go unreturned.

What now?

Several recent reports of roofing contractors soliciting work and taking payment up front, then leaving jobs unfinished, have crossed the desks of both the Goldsboro Police Department and the Wayne County Sheriff's Office.

The victims have ranged from young military families with rental properties to elderly citizens living alone and on fixed incomes.

Both law enforcement agencies and local real estate agent Michael Ellis of ReMax Complete encourage homeowners to arm themselves with the information needed to spot fraud and to safely contract needed repairs.

"A good rule of thumb is, don't part with your money up front," Ellis said. A contractor or subcontractor should provide an estimate, do the work, and present a bill when the job is finished, he said.

Some companies might require a deposit or a down payment, but homeowners are encouraged to check references on companies before signing on the dotted line.

"Get multiple bids from various contractors, and tell the contractors that is what you are doing," Ellis said.

Sgt. Jeremy Sutton of the Goldsboro Police Department Investigative Division agreed.

Sutton said contractors, reputable contractors, will solicit business, advertise or go door to door offering inspections to drum up business.

A red flag should go up, however, if the contractor does not have a license number displayed anywhere visible for consumers to see.

"Contractors should have a license. A license number should be on their business card or on their vehicle, somewhere it can be seen," Sutton said.

Both Sutton and Ellis said it is important to ask around before doing business with a contractor, and again, not to pay in full up front.

"What you might end up with then is them starting a job and not finishing it, just never showing back up," Sutton said.

Lt. Tom Flores of the Wayne County Sheriff's Office investigates financial crimes. He suggested using the Internet as a tool to research potential contractors.

"Check if they are rated with the Better Business Bureau, check Angie's List. See what kind of history they have," Flores said.

He said it is normal for consumers to want to cut costs, so he understands the temptation to contract with someone "on the side" rather than going through an established business.

"Just remember, you get what you pay for," he said. "If you are going to go with unlicensed Joe Blow off the street to save two or three thousand dollars, you will get what you pay for."

And collect receipts.

Flores said it is best to pay by personal or cashier's check, never cash, to establish a record of transactions in case things wind up in court before a judge.

Finally, if a consumer suspects the potential for fraud, or would just like to be thorough, go to the Wayne County Clerk of Courts and see if the company has been sued, Flores said.

"If they have been sued, especially if they've been sued several times, you do not want to do business with them."