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Proceed with caution

July 4, 2018 GMT

DEADWOOD — When it comes to hiring a contractor to fix hail damage, proceed with caution. Deadwood Building Inspector Trent Mohr said roofers are likely to descend upon the area soon.

“One of the biggest things, as far as my perspective goes, is, I don’t know if people realize it or not, but a building permit is required for any re-roofing, and a contractor’s license issued by the city is also required, with the contractor required to show liability insurance and an excise tax ID number,” he said, explaining that both measures are to protect property owners.

“By licensing them, we’re ensuring they have that,” he said, adding, “The permit ensures they’re on our radar and we’ll inspect it. The license ensures the contractor has liability insurance and is going to pay the excise tax on the work. We’ve had instances, in the past, where the contractor’s work was done for a homeowner. The contractor had no license, left town, and the person’s roof leaks. Then, you can’t get ahold of the contractor to warrantee it.”

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Mohr said that as early as Saturday, he witnessed contractor vehicles in the area traveling around town that he wasn’t familiar with.

“That’s a red flag for me,” he said, adding that two people he spoke with let him know of contractors going door to door to offer their services.

First Western Insurance Agent Chris Roberts, in Deadwood, offered a word of caution when property owners — vehicle or home — are approached to arrive at an estimate with the contractor and a suggestion of doing the work, then billing the insurance company.

“Before anything starts, submit a claim,” Roberts said. “The insurance company needs to know exactly what they’re dealing with, so initiate a claim first. Make sure your carrier is on board. In a storm like this, when you’re calling your insurance company, you need to know what the damage is, then contact your insurance carrier. The insurance company needs to be on board through the entire conversation.”

Once the claim is submitted to your insurance carrier, they make contact with the claims department. Then, an adjuster typically reaches out to the insured with an idea of when they will be on site to estimate the damage.

“Typically before you see a written estimate, there’s a verbal,” Roberts said. “Then we have a pretty good indication, at that point, how much damage we’re looking at.”

With several automobile and home owners’ windows knocked out with the storm, Roberts said, he understands that time is of the essence.

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“But the best-case scenario is to have a full estimate of the damage back to the insured, then go to a contractor,” Roberts said. “That way, all three parties agree, so, for example, you don’t have a contractor thinking they’re replacing all four sides of siding on a house, when, in fact, there are only two damaged.”

With phones ringing off the hook, beginning bright and early Monday morning, Roberts said, at 3 p.m., he had no idea how many claims had been filed thus far.

“Nowhere close to being able to count,” he added. “Probably a couple hundred by now. There are three of us here (in Deadwood) and we’ve been answering the phone all day long.”

When all the phones in that office are busy, phones are bounced to other Northern Hills locations, so other offices were taking claims as well, making a hard number difficult to estimate.

Deadwood Police Chief Kelly Fuller said a person’s insurance company can be a great source for reliable contractors.

“Definitely get references and check with the city you live in to make sure you’re dealing with a licensed contractor,” Fuller said. “Talk to your insurance company regarding reputable contractors, if you have any doubts. Do your homework. Due your due diligence to make sure you’re not a victim of fraud. To me, it would be a red flag if someone just shows up at your door. Lots of fraudulent companies travel through, do that type of thing, then leave. Because we just got hammered by hail, that type of thing is likely to start up.”

With some insurance companies bringing in national teams to help assess the damage, knowledge of the insurance process helps with consumer protection, as well.

“Before any adjuster shows up, you should be contacted,” Fuller said.

As far as reports in Deadwood, Fuller said that, being a tourist destination, many folks were looking for signatures from law enforcement to verify the storm for insurance companies and for rental companies, as a fair number of windshields were knocked out.

“There was damage all over town,” Fuller said. “We had reports of low-lying power lines, debris in the neighborhoods. It kept us busy for a good part of the shift. There were no serious injuries reported to us, and that’s a good thing. Property can be replaced.”

As people are offering to replace that property, a contractor’s license can usually be issued the same day.

“As long as they provide proof of liability and an excise tax ID number,” Mohr said. “A building permit application can take a little longer to process; for example, as historic preservation needs to ensure that repairs being done are not detrimental to a historic property.”

Mohr encouraged anyone with questions regarding the process to call his office at 578-3082.

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