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Oklahoma lawmaker wants stronger oversight for state's roofers

Oklahoma does not require roofers to pass a licensing test. Some lawmakers and industry professionals say it is time to create specialized investigators and a new licensing process.
BY GRAHAM LEE BREWER Modified: August 28, 2013 at 5:00 pm •  Published: August 27, 2013

Less than two weeks after the May 20 tornado, a contractor knocked on Barbara Jenkins' door and offered to check her roof for damage.

About five minutes later, he told the 82-year-old woman her roof, like many others in Moore, was in bad shape and needed to be replaced. The roofer, who didn't have a business card or a listing in the phone book, said it was only fair that she sign a repair contract with him, since he had examined her roof.

She signed it, but began to regret her actions and called her insurance adjuster, who came out and found nothing wrong with the roof.

Jenkins was able to get out of the contract, but incidents like this have caused some lawmakers and industry professionals to question why roofing contractors are not required to undergo testing or licensing to work in Oklahoma.

While roofing companies do have to register with the Construction Industries Board and pay a $75 registration fee, the board lacks investigative or enforcement power.

The Oklahoma Roofing Contractor Registration Act has been in place since 2010. When a complaint is filed with the board, it is forwarded to the local district attorney, who decides if prosecution is necessary.

Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, said he was shocked to learn that there was so little oversight.

“There is almost no regulation on this industry, and the legitimate contractors feel taken advantage of because they're playing by the rules while they're competing with other people who are not playing by the rules,” he said.

Echols wants to file legislation that would allow the board to investigate claims and require roofing contractors to take a licensing test similar to those required of others in home construction.

He said he is concerned that until the state establishes a proper investigative agency for roofing, consumers will not know who to call to file a complaint about fraudulent practices.

Complaints involving roofers are not uncommon.

A tarp has covered Sheril Davis' dilapidated roof in northeast Oklahoma City since she got into a contract dispute with her roofer in 2010. The 63-year-old retail worker said she has been forced to sleep in the living room because heavy rains collapsed sheet rock onto her bed.

She said she didn't know where to file a complaint.

“I can't make it another winter in this house like it is,” Davis said. “I'm going to have to move if something doesn't change and figure out what to do with my stuff and see if I can get some help until I can raise enough money to get it fixed.”

Donn Lipscomb with Moore Roofing and Insulation has been in the roofing industry for 38 years.

“There's a lot of people that once the hailstorm comes through, all of sudden they've got a pickup and a ladder and they're a roofer,” said Lipscomb. “They come out of the woodwork.”

Lipscomb said requiring a licensing test would reduce the number of unscrupulous roofers in the state. He said allowing the board to investigate consumer reports, even if that meant inspectors coming to job sites and asking questions, makes sense.

Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn said giving the construction board the authority to look into reported cases would be a step in the right direction.

“We have to refer them to the police department,” Mashburn said. “And, so what will happen, they get lost in the shuffle. If we had an agency that is well-versed and knowledgeable and able to investigate and forward charges to our office, it would really help us to have confidence in the investigations and be able to file charges.”

Echols said he has yet to talk to anyone involved in the industry who is opposed to the idea of testing for licenses or allowing the board to investigate claims. He wonders how, given the scope of the industry in Oklahoma, the state has gone this long without more regulation.

“When you consider the size of the roofing industry in the state of Oklahoma and in all of the construction areas, it is the No. 1 cost from my constituents to their homeowners insurance,” said Echols. “To me it doesn't make any sense.”


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