Article from Arizona Republic (newspaper)
as it appeared on Yahoo!
It will take months for metro Phoenix’s stripped-down roofing industry to repair the tens of thousands of area homes damaged during a freak hailstorm in October.
Roofing contractors said waiting lists have grown to as long as four months for an appraisal – a 180-degree turn from the state of their industry before the Oct. 5 storm.
“It went from, ‘Lord, please let the phone ring,’ to ‘Can it wait? I have to go to the bathroom,’ ” said Jennifer McQueen, president of the Arizona Roofing Contractors Association.
Homeowners and contractors said the massive repair effort also has exposed a deep distrust of homeowners by insurers and lenders.
Gary Aller, director of the Alliance for Construction Excellence, part of Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, said it has been virtually impossible for most Valley homeowners with damage to hire a licensed roofer quickly, leaving homes at risk of more severe damage if another storm should hit before repairs are made.
The problem, according to the roofing-contractors group, is that 40 percent of the Phoenix area’s licensed roofers have left the state or moved on to other professions. Before the hailstorm, there had been little demand for their work.
Aller estimated that 150,000 Valley roofs were damaged in the storm, which generated marble-size hail in some areas. Thousands of cars, skylights and other vulnerable surfaces were damaged, as well.
Gus Miranda, a State Farm Insurance spokesman, said the Bloomington, Ill.-based insurance provider has received about 18,000 auto claims and 13,000 roof-damage claims.
“It is one of the largest storms we’ve had in Arizona,” Miranda said.
McQueen, who also owns Dalmatian Roofing & Renovation in Phoenix, said that with only about 250 licensed roofing firms left in the state, many homeowners could be in for a long wait. “It’s going to take a good half-year, maybe longer,” she said.
Aller said an equally vexing problem is the lack of available roofing materials. Most manufacturers of materials used in roof-repair jobs have cut back sharply on production and sold off excess inventory at cut-rate prices after it became clear that new construction had slowed to a trickle.
Only 3,800 new-home permits have been issued in Maricopa County this year, Aller said. In the housing boom’s peak years, more than 70,000 permits a year were issued.
Now that roofing products are in demand again, there isn’t enough material to go around.
The repair process also has been complicated by the weak housing market. Because so many homeowners are underwater on their mortgages – they owe more than the home is worth – that some insurance providers and lenders have been reluctant to hand over a check made out to homeowners for the repairs.
That trend could limit options for homeowners shopping around for a contractor with a shorter waiting list.
“They’re writing the check either directly to the mortgage company or to the roofer, in some cases cutting the homeowner out,” said Duane Yourko, executive director of the Roofing Contractors Association.
Miranda said insurance companies often have agreements with mortgage lenders requiring them to write insurance-claim checks above a set dollar amount to both the homeowner and mortgage lender.
Daniel Fink, president of Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of Arizona Inc., a statewide trade group, said because of the potential for foreclosures, some lenders are insisting they be included even on smaller checks.
“Obviously, it would be a concern to the mortgage lender not only that the house would be coming back to them but that it would be coming back to them with a damaged roof,” said Fink, of Ideal Insurance Agency Inc. in Glendale.
Scottsdale homeowner Bill Archibald said that his insurance company came through with a check for repairs on his hail-damaged roof but that many of his neighbors are still waiting.
Archibald, a seasonal resident of Continental Villas, an age-restricted condominium community northwest of Loop 101 and McDonald Drive, said some residents’ insurers have been stalling, insisting that a supplemental disaster policy taken out by the community’s HOA should pay claims first.
“These people here don’t know what to do,” Archibald said. “Many of them are elderly. If another storm hits, it could put their health at risk.”
Homeowner frustration has created opportunity for what McQueen of the Roofing Contractors Association called “storm chasers.” She described them as pushy, unlicensed and often dishonest opportunists who canvass storm-damaged neighborhoods offering repair services to impatient residents.
McQueen said having a storm chaser work on your roof often voids the homeowner’s insurance policy, adding that the work itself usually is shoddy or incomplete.
Yourko said that the Arizona Registrar of Contractors does not pursue customer complaints against unlicensed roofers and that by the time most residents realize they’ve been scammed, the hailstorm chasers are long gone.
“If they’re unlicensed, there is no recourse – you’re on your own,” he said.
The Roofing Contractors Association recommends that homeowners visit the registrar’s website, azroc.gov, which has a database of all roofers with active licenses.
McQueen had another suggestion: Ask for a former-client reference that is at least a year old.
“Enough time has gone by for them to know how the roof is holding up,” she said. “Plus, you’ll know the roofer didn’t just roll into town yesterday.”