MEMPHIS (WMC-TV) - A roofing contractor's aggressive "storm damage" solicitations are no substitute for a friendly call to your insurance agent.
Especially after what the Action News 5 Investigators caught on hidden camera -- with American Shingle.
The Georgia-based roofing contractor (http://www.americanshingle.com/; BBB report: http://www.bbb.org/atlanta/business-reviews/roofing-contractors/american-shingle-and-siding-in-douglasville-ga-27257184), with an active Tennessee home improvement license, staffs more than 250 sales people in nine states.
Its "storm specialists" and telemarketers target areas with recent reports of storm damage. Pamphlets left by American Shingle representatives on front doors use breathless, frantic language like "STORM DAMAGE ALERT"; "YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD WAS HIT BY HAIL!"; "INSURANCE WILL REPLACE YOUR HAIL DAMAGED ROOF!"; "CALL TODAY BEFORE IT LEAKS!"
Jerry Lax of Bartlett, TN, said an American Shingle telemarketer called his house, using a similar sales pitch.
"If I thought I had storm damage, I'd call the adjuster out and have them look at the house first," he said.
Lax played along, booking an appointment to have an American Shingle representative take a look at his roof. The day before the appointment, the Action News 5 Investigators had Howard Miller and his crew with WeRepairRoofs.com (http://howardmillerhomeservices.com/roofing.html; BBB report: http://www.bbb.org/memphis/business-reviews/roofers/werepairroofscom-in-germantown-tn-15004027) inspect Lax's roof for wind, hail or residual storm damage.
Miller said Lax's roof will soon need to be replaced due to aging, but nothing else. No missing shingles. No missing ridge caps.
"We didn't find any storm damage. No storm damage at all," said Miller.
But American Shingle's Robert Barnes, under Action News 5's hidden camera surveillance, told Lax there are at least two portions of his roof that display evidence of storm-related damage.
"It could be from wind damage or hail damage," Barnes said.
He explained American Shingle would arrange to have Lax's insurance adjuster inspect the roof, provide the adjuster a "ladder assist," then if the adjuster determined there was storm damage, American Shingle would do the repairs and file a claim with Lax's insurance company.
"I file the claim," Barnes said. "It's a 'no-fault' claim."
"There is no 'no-fault' claim on a homeowners policy," said insurance agent Bennita Wade of Memphis-based Wade & Associates.
Wade said American Shingle is simply using frenetic marketing techniques to lock homeowners into a repair contract, without the benefit of shopping other contractors and seeking multiple bids.
"Why would you want to do business with someone who's using a scare tactic in order to get your business?" Wade asked. "You pay the insurance company lots of money to stand behind you. You want to utilize your company when, in fact, there is a claim.
"It's your property. It's your claim, and you can decide who does the work for you."
When the Action News 5 Investigators confronted Barnes, he referred us to his Memphis manager, Richard Jamerson.
"We do no repairs except when a homeowner's insurance company says there is damage," said Jamerson in a meeting at American Shingle's Macon Rd. location. "The homeowner signs a contingency agreement that we'll do the work if there is damage as determined by the insurance company."
American Shingle's contingency agreement states, "If we are unable to get homeowners insurance to pay for needed repairs, then homeowner shall have no liability to American Shingle."
"American Shingle has a 65% rate of finding damage with insurance adjusters on the first visit," said Jamie Werner, the company's corporate public relations director. "If it weren't for (American Shingle), a great deal of homeowners would never have known they had damage and would subsequently not file a claim until it was too late."
"American Shingle is preventing people from getting multiple bids and shopping the backgrounds of multiple contractors by locking them into a retainer agreement," said Nancy Crawford, communications director for The Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South.
The bureau always recommends getting multiple estimates from reputable contractors for any kind of home repair, including storm damage repair. For the bureau's guidance on storm damage, click here: http://memphis.bbb.org/article/advice-for-dealing-with-storm-damage-11025.
To research the licensure of a Tennessee contractor, click here: http://verify.tn.gov/.
To research Mississippi contractors, click here: http://www.msboc.us/OnlineServices/CheckLicenseRequest.html.
To research Arkansas contractors, click here: http://www.state.ar.us/clb/search.html.