The sky drops large balls of ice on rooftops, making neighborhoods look like war zones. Residents of the damaged houses lose sleep, hoping to get their roofs repaired in time for rain and snow.

Human vultures see these homeowners as prey. They swoop in and offer quick and seemingly simple roofing solutions, complete with illegal schemes to save homeowners from paying insurance deductibles.

Our region’s notorious hail disasters reliably attract fly-by-night out-of-state roofers who take money and insurance payments without completing the work. Others do the work, but not to standards adequate for Colorado’s climate. In some cases, roof scammers do such shoddy work the customers suffer devastating damage to property and health.

Scott Riopelle, president and owner of Denver-based Interstate Roofing, advises homeowners to contract with licensed local companies that have operated under the same name at the same location for years or decades. Reputations are earned and they mean something.

Too many roofing companies go out of business in a year or two, which falls short of the lifespan of warranties pledged in roofing contracts.

“Homeowners — honestly, they’re so trusting. They’ll sign a contract without even looking,” said Roger Lovell, building official at the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department, which licenses roofers.

Getting a license from the building department takes up to five weeks. To obtain the license, a company must prove knowledge of local code and satisfy other benchmarks designed to protect consumers.

Riopelle explains how some scammers rent licenses from small Colorado companies with licenses, then present themselves as licensed local professionals. Others ask the homeowners to pull a permit for repairs.

“My best advice is don’t sign a contract on the spot without doing due diligence, without checking to ensure that the contractor is indeed licensed,” Lovell said.

In a Gazette news article Tuesday, reporter Rachel Riley tells of Michael and Veloy Montano enduring life-altering health problems after hiring a sub-standard roofer following a 2013 hailstorm.

The company neglected to reconnect the water heater exhaust system, which extends through the roof. No one inspected the work because the roofers worked without a permit from the Regional Building Department. If local government doesn’t know about a roofing job, it cannot examine the work. The couple breathed carbon monoxide for nearly a year before Colorado Springs Utilities and the Security Fire Department discovered the problem. Michael Montano suffered so much physical damage he remains disabled.

“These days, Michael’s movements are slow and his speech is soft,” Riley’s story explains. “He no longer can drive, enjoy 3- to 5-mile runs several times a week, or play the guitar while singing along with Veloy, whom he met while performing in a band when they were young.”

Thousands of area homeowners await roof repairs after a summer of extraordinary hail. In trying to get on with life, they will avoid additional grief by asking hard questions, inspecting licenses, and evaluating reputations before writing checks.

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