From the “Composition Roofs Damage Assessment Field Guide” by Haag Engineering Co. Used with Permission. Do not reproduce or print.
Hail storms can rip through a town quickly, damaging cars, windows, siding and roofs in just a few minutes. These storms can also leave very little or no damage if the hailstones are small or not very dense.
What might be scarier than the damage is that someone may try to tell you that your roof is damaged from hail when it’s not. These fraudulent contractors make a living by following storms around the country and asking to repair your undamaged roof. Their pitch may seem convincing, but it takes a trained eye to distinguish hail damage from other types of common roof damage. It’s also impossible to distinguish types of damage without climbing onto the roof.
“Most people don’t go up on their roof, which is a good thing considering it’s a risky place to be,” says Dave LeFaiver, ERIE’s supervisor of property claims. “But, that means most people aren’t sure what a truly hail-damaged roof looks like. Fraudsters can take advantage of this and often leave door-hangers that say ‘Your roof is damaged. Please contact us to help you repair it.’”
While there are many reputable contractors who do know how to identify and repair hail damage, the few disreputable ones can leave a mess and confusion behind.
The best defense to this type of insurance fraud is to ask the contractor questions. LeFaiver suggests checking out any contractor through the Better Business Bureauand working only with local contractors. He also suggests asking for a list of references from the surrounding area and for identification, such as a driver’s license.
“Take you’re time in choosing a contractor,” LeFaiver says. “Don’t let anyone pressure you into signing a contract. With hail damage, you have time on your side.”
Unlike damaged windows, a damaged roof most likely will not disrupt normal life, according to LeFaiver.
“A hail-damaged roof can wait a few months before fixing as long as the roof isn’t leaking. If a contractor is pressuring you to fix the roof immediately, or if their address is from out-of-town, they may not be the contractor you want to work with.”
What’s Hail Damage? What’s Not?
There are also types of roof damage, such as normal wear and tear, that might be misconstrued as hail damage. It’s important to know the difference.
“Insurance is meant to cover unexpected and sudden damage, such as those caused by a hail or windstorm,” explains LeFaiver. “Damage caused by manufacturing defects or installation errors isn’t covered.”
Hail damage often is only on one side of the roof, and it’s a series of “bruises” that appear in a pattern based on the direction of the wind. It’s typically darker than the shingles.
Lighter marks left after a hail storm often mean algae or lichen have been knocked off—in most of these cases, the shingles themselves are not damaged.
Installation errors, such as nails poking through, and manufacturing defects in shingles can also be mistaken for hail damage. On newer roofs, the contractor should be expected to address these problems, rather than an insurance company.