LAS CRUCES — Las Crucens are still struggling to repair damage to vehicles and homes after hailstorms pummeled the area in October.
More than 770 re-roofing permits were applied for in November, according to Robert Garza, city manager. That is 90 percent more than the normal volume, and is due to the hail damage from two October storms, Garza said. While the current spate of snow and cold has slowed some of the reroofing inspections, another wave of applications will likely follow when weather is more conducive to roof work.
“It appears the roofing permit volume has tapered off some over the last couple of weeks, but I suspect that is due to the holidays as well as the weather,” Garza said. “It’s tough to do roof repairs with wet and cold conditions. The city’s building official is predicting a rise in permits in that area again after the New Year begins. I suspect that most have taken precautionary measures to protect from the elements in areas that are waiting for a contractor to be freed up to do the work.”
Bruce Buchman of Buchman Insurance, a member of the Farmers Insurance Agency in Las Cruces, said his office alone has received roughly 100 home claims and less than 50 auto claims. Of those, the roof repair claims were by far the most expensive, ranging from $30,000 down to $2,000 — $3,000 for minor repairs, he said. The average for homes is roughly $15,000.
Total claims could run upwards of $1 million just for his office, “and that’s just for one agent, and I’m a small agent,” Buchman said.
Terry Giever, owner of Westco Builders, said 30 to 40 percent of homes in the area were damaged during the October storms. The volume of work that needs to be done and the fact it’s been an unusually cold and snowy December means the repair work will likely stretch on for three to four months, he said.
Buchman said the storms were likely to cost Farmers $8 million to $10 million in payouts. Extrapolating that to the entire insurance industry in the county, he estimates repair costs could top $100 million.
“It’s a very expensive storm,” he said. “A lot of people aren’t realizing they have a problem and the claims are just coming in.”
He agreed with Garza that the weather was complicating a complete analysis and slowing repairs and inspections.
“We’ve got to get the snow off the roofs,” he said. “When (the storm) first started we brought in a catastrophe team and had inspectors on the roof in three days. What’s going to happen is (homeowners) don’t want the roof put on now in the cold. They want to wait until it’s warmed up some.”
Waiting may be an option if there is no structural damage and merely light impact damage to the roof — such as denting or shingle damage.
“If it’s impact damage you can probably wait, but if you have structural damage you can’t wait,” he said. “You have to prevent future (damage) claims.”
Also, he said, when it comes to repairs it is vital to research and choose reputable contractors. If an out-of-town company comes in and does cut-rate repairs, it leaves the homeowner open to further damage that may not be covered.
“If something happens in two years and the roof wasn’t put on right and there’s water coming in … this was defective workmanship and policies will not pay for defective workmanship.”
Westco’s Giever agreed.
“There are correct ways to do it and incorrect ways to do it,” Giever said.
Out-of-state contractors will descend to storm-damaged areas, often working without licenses or insurance. The best prevention is to check the contractor’s license with the state and ensure they are fully licensed and insured. Often companies will come into town, work under an existing construction or repair company’s license, then disappear.
“They need to be licensed,” Giever said. “Make sure they have general liability insurance and workers compensation insurance. If somebody falls off the roof and the company doesn’t have insurance, you could lose your house.”
Checking with the New Mexico Construction Industries and Manufactured Housing division of the state regulation and licensing department at http://www.rld.state.nm.us/construction/ will allow you to check out potential contractors. You can also visit the New Mexico Workers Compensation Administration at http://www.workerscomp.state.nm.us/ to determine insurance status.
Buchman and Giever said the first step was to select a reputable contractor and thoroughly review their qualifications. Equally important, even if you don’t think your home is significantly damaged, most insurance companies will not increase rates for an inspection if no damage is found, Buchman said.
Above all, find a reputable repair service that will be around if there are problems with the work. And, supporting local companies not only makes it more likely repairs will be easy to arrange, it also keeps the local economy pumping.
“Why are people hiring these (out-of-town) guys when they can keep the money in the local economy by hiring people who live in Las Cruces?” Giever asked “If not, the profit goes out-of-state.”
Jason Gibbs may be reached at 575-541-5451. Follow him on Twitter @fjgwriter.
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