Where there’s rain, hail, wind and trees, there’s potential damage. It’s not hard to find a local independent roofing contractor to save the day, especially post-storm, but there’s a problem: Where there’s a storm, there’s a scam — especially in Texas.
Former State Insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman reported that Texas has one of the highest roofing repair fraud rates in the country. With the state’s record-breaking weather, it’s no wonder that Texas took the number one spot on State Farm’s list of the most hail damage insurance claims for 2014, with almost 52,000 claims. North Texas was a magnet for fraudulent contractors at the end of 2015, during a period of record hail storms, rainfall and tornadoes. The Better Business Bureau of Dallas received 1,058 complaints against roofing contractors at that time.
Still, state officials aren’t yet compelled to implement mandatory licensing for the industry’s contractors. Solid legitimization of roofing contractors comes down to the voluntary and increasingly popular licensing program made by the Roofing Contractors Association of Texas (RCAT). The statewide trade association of roofing and waterproofing contractors has a mission to raise industry standards, while spreading awareness to consumers that there’s a need for contractor accountability and accreditation.
“After repeatedly lobbying the state legislature for more than 20 years, coupled with Gov. Greg Abbott’s public statements that he was not interested in passing any new licensing in Texas, we decided to rebrand the RCAT Certification to the RCAT Roofing License,” said Dan Pitts, past RCAT president. “We made the decision that if the state will not do it, we were going to do what we could to level the playing field ourselves.”
Qualifying contractors gives them the upper hand and a better reputation, Pitts said. It protects the consumer and maintains a stable and trustworthy regard toward contractors and their knowledge and skills. With serious contractors out there being associated with fake ones, the reputable, honest contractors are at risk of losing business. That’s why RCAT leadership finds it vital to lay groundwork for proper education and qualification.
“It’s important that we take action, because all of us who are serious about it and care about it don’t like getting lumped in with all the others who don’t treat it honorably,” Pitts said. “There are far too many who are in it for the quick buck with little regard for the customer.”
Paul Ramon, president of Ramon Roofing, Inc., has reaped the benefits of the RCAT roofing license. His company’s industry credibility has risen and, in turn, secured them a lot of business.
“Last week, after I gave an estimate to a client, I explained to them that I was licensed by RCAT to install roofs in the state of Texas,” Ramon said. “The client was being directed by their insurance company to use one of their preferred roofing contractors, none of which were licensed to install roofs. They had much cheaper estimates, but the client’s concerns were still there. Needless to say, we got the job at a higher price because we were licensed by RCAT. Credibility goes a long way in our industry.”
The RCAT licensing process is thorough, with three iterations to choose from, including commercial-only, residential-only, or both residential and commercial. For each iteration, there’s a corresponding test, along with a mandatory business and safety test. Contractors that offer residential and commercial services have three tests: residential, commercial and business and safety.
The contractor must also have general liability and workers’ compensation insurance, Pitts said. For the commercial license, the contractor is expected to demonstrate the ability to provide a performance bond to guarantee fulfillment of a contract. Qualifying licensed contractors are required to pass a background check, which helps disqualify anyone seeking credentials just to continue preying on others. After signing a notarized statement claiming they: Haven’t been convicted of a felony; walked away from a roofing contract; or filed for bankruptcy, they can then call themselves licensed professional contractors.
Continued education is just as important as the original licensing, Pitts said. To keep the license, contractors must complete 10 hours of continuing education units, which must be certified for roofing or associated to the roofing industry. So far, the RCAT license has been wildly popular, with the association’s numbers rising in just a year’s time.
“RCAT has grown faster than I can ever remember,” Pitts said. “We have heard from many more prospects who want to be a part of it. It just takes a commitment to study and take the test to earn it.”
In the previous five years, the organization had an 87 percent retention. Their 2016 goal was to achieve a 90 percent retention, but instead achieved a 92.4 percent retention-rate. RCAT started 2016 with 95 associates, 241 contractors and 40 license holders. Now, they have 118 associates, 355 contractors and 161 license holders.