Roof Cleaning is a UNREGULATED INDUSTRY!
Property Owners should know what to look for when hiring a roof and exterior cleaning contractor.
Roof cleaning has been a service provided by contractors for over three decades now. The first professional roof cleaning companies started their businesses in 1978. Though there are many roof cleaning companies out there to choose from, careful research should be done to insure you hire a true professional.
In most states and municipalities, roof cleaning requires no special licensing. In fact, in most areas of the country, a minimum $30.00 occupational license is the only requirement to be in business. In many cases, roof cleaning contractors have no liability insurance, no workers compensation insurance and are operating the business from personal vehicles with no business insurance bound to them. Because of little or no regulation, coupled with an ease of starting the business, one can find people from all walks of life operating roof cleaning companies.
Roof cleaning, as a business, is a great way for recently unemployed and corporate castoffs to start a business and afford themselves an awesome opportunity to support their families. We have seen this trend in this down economy and that is what the American Dream is all about. However, there is another element that is drawn to this, the unemployable. From people that just cannot work with anyone else, to those who cannot drive company vehicles due to DWI convictions or poor drivers licenses and as disturbing as it is convicted felons like sex offenders.
In fact, the home services industry is riddled with the unemployable. Many news stations have profiled this problem admist thefts, vandalism and even home invasions and rape. Some contractors hire employees without documenting the employee or checking their background, paying them under the table. (view strangers in your house story) This has led to the creation of contractor review companies like Ask The Seal and Compliance Depot. These review companies verify the company background, check the criminal history of both the owner as well as the employees and verify that the company has minimum standards in place for licensing, insurance and workers comp.
To worsen the matter, some contractors have created false or misleading logos, seals and certificates to try to add an aire of legitamacy to their company. There are even some internet associations that have been created to make contractors seem more professional and even offer certifications that may in fact be for marketing purposes only. To avoid this confusion, you the customer needs to be vigilant in checking that these associations are real 501c3 non-for-profit organizations and not faux associations. Superior Shine does not endorse any association but two legitmate associations exist for the mobile cleaning contractor. One is the Power Washers of North America http://thepwna.org/ and the other is the United Association of Mobile Cleaning Contractors http://www.uamcc.org/ .
Please be aware that there are currently several faux organizations that claim to be trade organizations that govern the roof cleaning industry. In a few cases, individuals have created these faux organizations for personal gain and advertising. Though some may look impressive and have nice graphics and logos they have little or no authority and leave potential property owners in jeopardy of possibly hiring an inexperienced, untrained and uninsured contractor. These faux organizations do not have any protocols in place for verifying if a company / contractor has his license, insurance and other regional requirements in place. It is good advice to follow the wise saying of “trust but verify”.
Roof cleaning is also a dangerous trade. Every year several people fall from roofs and die. Roof cleaning is arguably the most dangerous service that is provided on your home. In the roof cleaning industry, injuries are common due to the unregulated nature of the service. In fact, most roof cleaning companies gross less than $150,000.00 a year and are not required to adhere to common laws and regulatory agencies. Companies that make less than $250,000.00 per year are not required to adhere to federal wage an hour standards and do not have to pay their employees overtime. In fact, safety is a real concern because companies who make less than $250,000.00 a year are not governed by O.S.H.A. as well. Companies that have 3 or less employees do not have to have workers compensation insurance in many states. Most of these small contractors fly under the radar of compliance and when an accident happens you the homeowner are left holding the bill.
Workers comp is an important insurance that many states require for protecting employees in the event of a worksite injury. It covers the employees medical bills, lost time from work as well as education and/or retraining in the event the injury leaves them unable to perform their vocation. It is a costly insurance that protects not only the insured company but the property owner from accident liability as well. Some states allow a common loop hole to complying with this insurance requirement. This is called a workers comp exemption. Smaller companies are permitted to purchase a minimum workers compensation policy then exempt as many as 3 employees from the policy. These employees payroll is exempt and therefore they are not covered by that workers comp policy. This is a common practice for companies trying to garnish commercial projects that require workers comp insurance. However, in many cases the person who comes out to perform the roof cleaning is probably one of the exempted employees. In this situation, the person who is up cleaning your roof in the potential of a dangerous fall, is not covered by workers comp insurance.
By now you are asking what can I do to insure that I am hiring a true professional within this or any home & property services industry? We have created this simple check-list to help the property owner pick the professional right for your project.
1. Simply, how do they look!
Do they look professional? Are they uniformed? Are they using a quote form or invoice? Does their vehicle look professional?
2. Ask for a copy of their local occupational license.
Some areas of the country do not call these occupational licenses. Simply, these are a business tax and a registration of the company. Some areas of the country call these DBAs or Doing Business As. These are registrations of the individual or sole proprietorship registered under a business name.
3. Ask for a copy of their insurance certificate.
Make sure they have at least $500,000.00 in Liability Insurance, $500,000.00 in Commercial Auto Insurance and Workers Comp. Make sure the certificate has the insured’s name on it as well as the companies insurance agents name on it as well. Then call the agent and check to see if the policy is still active. Have a certificate issued in your name and e-mailed or regular mailed to you for your records.
4. Get a list of refrences!
Make sure the company has pleased customers in your area. It is also a good test of a companies health if they actually can provide a list of customers they messed up on and came back to make it right.
5. Do a web search on the company.
In a search engine use the key words fraud, warning, consumer alert and the name of the company. Like this example… SoftWash Systems Consumer Alert. Look for a propondence of bad customer service reports. Just because a company has a few bad customer service interactions do not discount them all together. Everyone has a few.
6. Call the local Better Business Bureau.
Are they members or at least have a clean file with the BBB?
7. Do they offer a warranty?
Does this company stand behind their work? If they have a 5 year warranty, have they been in business at least as long as the warranty period. Example it looks suspicious if a company that has been in business one year has a five year warranty. Also remember the warranty is only worth the paper it is written on. Does the company look like it is going to be around for the next five years?
8. What training have they recieved and are they certified?
Has the company or individual you are hiring gone through any special training by a third party? What is the background on that third party? Can you view the curriculum and what steps were taken in certifying that company or individual?
9. Is the company a member of a REAL trade association?
Remember with the advent of the internet faux organizations are rampent. Make sure there is a phone number and office for the association and that it is a real 501c3. Does the association have officers and who are the officers? Does the association hold its members accountable for professional standards and practices?
10. What system do they use to clean your roof?
Finally, after making sure you have not hired an uninsured, unlicensed, felon, stalker can they clean your roof without damaging the roofs surface? On this site, you can access documents from major roofing manufacturers that attest as to what the safest methods are for cleaning a roof. Also please review the 50 Point Standard and the equipment and chemicals sections. Look the contractor in the eye and you will get a good feel as he or she explains their process if they believe in it or not. Don’t be afraid to ask for a free demonstration, a reputable professional will honestly be very excited to show you what they can do.