By RUTH CAMPBELL
Come July 1, not everyone will be able to hang out a shingle and call themselves a roofing contractor.
A new state law, called the Kansas Roofing Contractor Registration Act will require residential and commercial roofing contractors to register with the state. The law is aimed at protecting Kansas home and building owners from "unscrupulous activity," especially after a severe storm, DV Douglass Roofing co-owner and Kansas Roofing Association President Steve Douglass said in a press release.
The law will become part of the Consumer Protection Act, which is administered and enforced by the Attorney General. It also will create a registry in the Office of the Attorney General.
Douglass, who co-owns Douglass Roofing with his three brothers, said the law closes a "doughnut hole" in the Midwest, with Kansas being the only state without a roofing contractor registration law. The law applies to contractors statewide, as well as those from out of state.
"Every roofing contractor, regardless, will have to register," Douglass said. There are a few exceptions such as if someone is repair their own roof, or there is a handyman exemption where someone adding a room onto a home and tacking on a "few shingles" wouldn't have to register.
"That's what we as the Kansas Roofing Association have requested that everyone starts from scratch and registers," Douglass said. He said Kansas loses $2 million a year in sales tax from contractors who come in and bring materials from out of state.
"This will help ensure these guys are paying the same as the one in Kansas and help protect the elderly," Douglass said.
Stanley Katz, owner of Garden City Roofing and Insulation, said he thinks the new law will be a "good deal" and "keep a lot of riff-raff out."
Katz also praised Douglass for the job he's done as KRA president. "I think Steve does a good job of taking care of stuff of that nature," he said.
Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce President Steve Dyer said he thinks the legislation will help "level the playing field" between the local contractors and those that come in after a disaster. Storms that do damage to roofs don't come through often, but when they do "it's crazy time."
"It keeps everybody honest in business and encourages that everyone plays by the same rules," Dyer said.
Dyer said local roofers will tell you they have picked up the pieces after a firm has come through to fix a roof. But insurance companies only pay for those repairs once.
Douglass said his company and a lumber business helped a woman who had been "bamboozled" when a storm came though in 2008. Douglass said his company donated the labor.
Other than legal means or filing a complaint against unscrupulous companies with the Better Business Bureau, the nearest of which is in Wichita, there is no other recourse for consumers, Dyer said.
"I'm definitely not saying there should be free enterprise, but everyone should have to do the same thing and jump through the same hoops," Dyer said.
"One of the main reasons for this legislation is to protect consumers from unscrupulous contractors that swarm areas following a storm. Unfortunately, they appear in towns overnight, typically going door-to-door, overstating the need for immediate roof repairs and/or replacements. They sometimes require hefty deposits and use unprofessional tactics on people who are already anxious and unsure of what to do. Too often, the results are not good," KRA Executive Director Kim Swartzendruber said in an email to The Telegram.
The KRA has been working on this type of legislation for two years, Swartzendruber said. "I'm pleased to see that home and building owners will have a way to reassure themselves that the company they plan to work with has some history, is adhering to typical company requirements (general liability, employee protection via workers' compensation insurance), etc.," Swartzendruber said.
She noted it will help promote professionalism in the roofing industry. "It will help to level the playing field if all companies are required to have insurance and pay appropriate taxes to the state of Kansas, Swartzendruber said.
"Though people can always find ways to be devious if that is their intent, we believe the Registry requirement will help to deter that type of company from coming into our communities," she wrote. "There are very good Kansas and out-of-state contractors that perform work following storms, the hope is that having all companies register, will provide consumers a level of protection against the unscrupulous ones. A consumer will be able to check a website (operated by the Attorney General's office) to determine if a company is registered appropriately to do business in Kansas.
Though people can always find ways to be devious if that is their intent, we believe the Registry requirement will help to deter that type of company from coming into our communities.
"There are very good Kansas and out-of-state contractors that perform work following storms, the hope is that having all companies register, will provide consumers a level of protection against the unscrupulous ones. A consumer will be able to check a website (operated by the Attorney General's office) to determine if a company is registered appropriately to do business in Kansas. The states surrounding Kansas have already implemented similar type laws or requirements. We believe this made Kansas an easy 'target,'" Swartzendruber wrote.