I’m just waiting for the calls to start coming in (good and bad)…
Roofers roving streets in Owatonna
By: Clare Kennedy
Posted: Friday, June 19, 2009 10:46 pm
Wednesday’s storm brought marble-sized hail (pictured), and in the following days out-of-town roofers have descended on the Owatonna trying to convince homeowners that their roofs need repair. By CLARE KENNEDY
OWATONNA — Roofing contractors from out of town went on a door-knocking campaign, trying to convince residents that they needed repairs after a minor hail storm hit town on Wednesday, but they made a serious misstep when they knocked on Building Official Gary Yoder’s door.
“They came to my house and asked my wife if they could go on my roof and look for hail damage. She said ‘No thank you,’” Yoder said on Friday. “That was the first that I’d heard of it. Because of the type of storm, I didn’t even think people would be coming into town. Then other people in the department started seeing trucks around town so we decided to gear up to nip it in the bud.”
On Friday afternoon, city building officials were still prowling the town, looking for rogue roofers who descended on Owatonna after Wednesday’s storm.
“There are still plenty people out there,” Yoder said. “I’m guessing 10 or 12 have been caught so far. We’re still working on that. We’ll probably be cruising around this weekend.”
Yoder cautioned residents that these contractors could be scam artists.
“The storm we had was in no way one that would cause concern about the roof. What bothers me is that these people go around and do a good sell looking for vulnerable people who have no idea whether their roof is bad or not,” Yoder said. “It’s kind of a nightmare. You could really imagine what would happen if we had a real storm event: This town would be full of these people.”
The roofers’ path has generated plenty of calls to the police dispatch center from concerned residents. Friday reports of roving roofers continued to come in.
Roger Johnson on Richway Lane said he opened his door to find a contractor who had come all the way from Champlin, Minn.
“He did have a Minnesota license, but he didn’t have a permit to solicit in Owatonna,” Johnson said. “He thought we had hail damage, but he wasn’t quite sure ’cause he would have to get on the roof and look. I said I would like him to get a permit before I let him up on my roof.”
Hail damage seemed dubious to the Johnsons, whose potted plants made it through the ordeal without a scratch. Johnson called the Owatonna Police Department, which put him through to dispatch.
Later he saw another contractor from Eagan cruising through.
“The neighbors and I got together and called the PD,” Johnson said. “Then the PD did come out and talk to the contractors about it.”
The incidents have also created a minor furor in some local construction circles. Contractors here are used to plenty of tough love from Owatonna building inspectors.
“They have to have a permit if they’re going to go door to door. We have to do everything by the book here and so should they,” said Duane Ringhofer, who has owned Ringhofer Construction for years. “It takes two weeks to get this permit. I’m just saying we need to keep an even playing field. I’m not saying they’re crooks.”
Ringhofer said he first heard of the issue when he got a call from residents in Heritage Estates, a development on the south end where Ringhofer’s company had built homes and townhomes.
Ringhofer conceded that hail can cause serious damage, if it’s large enough. If the hail leaves large pock marks on the shingles, that’s a bad sign, he said.
“When the hail hits the roof it will leave a spot, it’ll hit the grit off the shingles and if it hits vinyl siding, it will leave a dent,” Ringhofer said. “But there was no hail that big on that side of town.”
Most of the hail that hit Owatonna was relatively small: Marble sized at the biggest.
Yoder agreed and had the following advice: Don’t let them in the house and don’t let them on the roof.
“Some actually get up and do damage to the roof and say it was hail,” Yoder said. “We’ve seen that before.”
If the contractors are legitimate, they should provide the homeowner with a name, identification, a company name and a contractor license number. Yoder advised residents to call his office and verify the information before they considered writing a check.
Yoder said anyone thinking abut taking them up on the offer should get a second and third opinion from local contractors to see if their roof really needs repair. Legitimate contractors would also need city permits for their work.
Yoder said the deluge of contractors could be a sign of ongoing economic woe, but that such instances are common in good times as well.
“Storm chasers are pretty typical. Some are really undesirable people, but the economy could have something to do with people spreading out to look for anything, any kind of work,” Yoder said. “I just want people to be really careful. They’re far better off with a local contractor. A lot of the out-of-towners take the money and we never see them again.”
Yoder anticipated another week or two of flushing the contractors out.