My Roofers Caught My House on Fire

I live just southeast of Austin, TX., and while we do not get rain, we do get a lot of wind. In late May of this year, it was one of those windy nights when you think a tornado is coming through. Shingles were scattered across my front and back lawns, a 25 foot section of wood, privacy fencing was blown over, two storm doors were ripped from their hinges, and a large Hackberry branch was laying across a portion of the roof (I wanted to click my heels and say, “there is no place like home.”

Well, I called my insurance agent the following day and reported the damage. I had lived here for seven years, and never filed a claim. They were extremely friendly, helpful, and told me they would send an adjuster out, but that they were swamped with calls, so it may be several days. No problem. Well, after two weeks and no word, I called back. They had provided the adjuster with an incorrect contact phone number for me. Once that was corrected, the adjuster appeared within two days.

The adjuster appeared, and was very professional and helpful, providing an answer to any questions I asked. He had to survey the roof damage, so retrieved his fold-up ladder from his SUV. While walking down the sidewalk to the porch, he snagged his pant leg in the hinge of the ladder. He fell onto the cement, hitting his knee and elbow , and breaking his digital camera. I felt so bad for him, and expected him to leave, but he did not. I loaned him my camera, and he did what he needed to do. This was the middle of June, and I already had airlines tickets for a family reunion in MA. I received the insurance check for the repairs, before I left, and scheduled a roofing company to install a new roof upon my return.

The roofing company advertised as “30 years in business, licensed and insured.” They provided me with a professional looking estimate before my trip to MA. Prior to starting the job, I was to pay 50% down ($1800.00 ), and the remainder at the satisfactory completion of the job. I called them on 6/30 to inform them that I was home, and they could pick up the deposit, or I could mail it to them. They picked it up within 30 minutes, and requested a little over $2,000.00, indicating it was for materials. Well, they ran the check to my bank and cashed immediately.

The shingles and felt were to be delivered on 7/14. That didn’t happen. I was then told delivery would be made on 7/19. I had finally given up, when the truck showed up at 6:30pm. They roof loaded the shingles and felt, but were short 2 squares of shingles and 4 rolls of felt. I called the roofers to let them know, as well as the fact that the invoice I was given was approximately $700.00 less than the estimate they provided. They advised that it would be revised before final payment was made.

The roofer was supposed to start work on 7/19, but had a son send me an e-mail asking if they could start on the 21st of July. This was the second reset. I advised OK, but that was the final.

Friday – The roofer and helper showed at 10:30am on the 21st , and took lunch at 12:00, for 1-1/2 hours. They returned and continued removing the old shingles and felt. They were to replace any bad decking, but did not bring any decking, so were going to quit at 6:30pm. I offered them decking, which they used (I was charged for replacement decking), and continued to work for awhile longer. Since they had stayed late, we had barbequed and fed the roofer and his helper. Come to find out, the “helper” was very hung-over from Thursday night; he was approximately 18-19 years old.

Saturday – The roofer showed at 9:00 am, with a new helper, a middle-aged, over-weight, hispanic man that did not speak English. I was to later find out that the “kids”, who normally help out, had all gotten drunk on Friday night and couldn’t work, so this picked this man up in the Home Depot parking lot. Since they were banging on the roof, I was watching TV in the living room, when I lost the satellite reception at 10:30am. I went outside to find the “new” helper on that side of the roof. I figured they might have had to disconnect the dish for awhile when working on that side of the house. I asked him if he disconnected, he merely nodded, smoked his cigarette, and asked for agua. I got him a bag of ice and water for their cooler on the roof. Come to find out, which is what I suspected, the “helper” hit the satellite dish with the shingles while throwing them off the roof, knocking it totally out of whack and requiring a $70.00 service call, 5-days later.

In the meantime, the roofer’s wife (company owner), had to retrieve a new air compressor. The one they ‘rented’ on Friday, did not work. Again, this took 2-3 hours, then lunch time. I think the roofer finally got frustrated with his helper, and had him picking up debris in the yard in the afternoon. At 3:00pm, I asked the roofer to reconnect the dish, since they were no longer working on that side of the house. This is when it was disclosed that the “helper” hit the dish while throwing shingles. Needless to say, I didn’t barbeque or feed them this evening, but I did send a box of games and toys home for the roofer and owner’s two young children. They appeared to be a hard-working family, trying to support the household.

Sunday – Showed up at 10:00, which was alot earlier than I anticipated. They were laying the new shingles on the last two sides of the roof, a balcony, re-hanging gutters, and installing the ridge vents versus the turbines that I previously had. One of the “kids” was back on the job, and again they worked late, trying to finish up. Again we had barbequed, so fed the roofer and his helper. They left at about 8:00, leaving the trailer with the debris, so I knew they would be back on Monday to collect it, and payment for the balance of the job.

Monday – We were awakened at 3:30am, overcome with smoke and the fire alarms going off. I called the fire department, then the roofer and wife (owner), and proceeded to chunk water into the bedroom ceiling as fast as I could, until the fire department arrived (I live in a rural area, and tankers have to be used by the fire department). The fire department cut a hole in the downstairs bedroom ceiling (pine wood), and two holes in the new roof. The roofer and wife did show up. She told me that if it was determined to be their fault, they would gladly replace the decking and shingles. Unfortunately, it destroyed 2 rafters, joists, insulation, inside ceiling, carpet, and personal property.

After an hour, the roofers left. I was up until 7:00am, and finally laid on the couch waiting for the Fire Marshall to call and come over. The initial fire department report stated that the fire started from the top of the roof, due to hot tar. The Fire Marshall came out, and determined that the fire started at the top of the roof, and had been smouldering for awhile. A fire engineer also came out, as well as two other roofing companies. It was determined that it was most likely a cigarette, dropped from the roof, into the opening.

The roofing company denies any responsility to date, will not provide their attorney or insurance information, only that they will replace the decking and shingles. Well, the damage is close to $14,000.00. She has gone as far as to acuse me of setting my own house on fire to avoid paying her $1.500.00. I live in a two-story, log home and have sunk my life into renovations of this home. I would have loved to have paid the final $1,500.00 for the roof installation, instead of dealing with the mess I now have.

As of this writing, cleaning, vents and ducts, have been accomplished. The carpet has been removed and new flooring installed, but I still have two holes in the roof, and one in the ceiling. Gees… I wonder how she would like a $420.00 elctric bill?

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