Better Business by Robb Hicken: Gathering brings together roofers, government officials

ROBB HICKEN, chief storyteller for the Better Business Bureau serving the Snake River RegionAugust 13, 2013 

Robb Hicken

When the room began to fill, the gap between contractors and government officials blurred. The group was cordial; people chatted in a reacquainting manner.

This was a first — putting roofers and officials in one room to talk about the industry requirements, problems and solutions.

Better Business Bureau CEO Dale Dixon got the idea after receiving several complaints of noncompliance by BBB-accredited businesses. “Why not? Why not bring everyone together to talk about what is legally required of roofers wanting to work in Boise?” he said.

BBB warns residents to inspect their roofs and be aware that not all roofing and construction companies are the same. Every year, homeowners nationwide research the trustworthiness of roofing contractors with BBB more than 2 million times. That’s more than any other industry. Unfortunately, last year alone, BBB received more than 7,600 complaints about roofers from unsatisfied customers.

Since the first of the year in the Snake River Region, BBB had 7,734 people looking for roofing contractors through its online directory.

Adding up the inquiries and complaints, BBB set up a meeting with city planners, the state tax commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Unheard of.

Boise Building Division Manager Jenifer Gilliland told the group that changes in roofing codes, requirements and standards were interpreted liberally by some contractors and simply neglected by others. Scam artists still find the niche as an easy way to make money off the unsuspecting.

“I’m glad that we were able to get together to pass along what’s needed to be done,” she says. “The time to do roofing is such a compressed time period, so we thank you [roofers] for pulling your permits.”

Points of clarification were made on project dollar value requiring a city permit, the type of mandatory inspections and available online transactions.

“We’re making ourselves available. If you call we’ll be there ... [the inspectors] are trying to meet your deadlines,” she says.

Meriam Shaw, tax specialist with the state Tax Commission, went through tax changes and reminded the roofers to always account for tax in the bidding process.

“Bid high enough to cover the taxes as if they are not included,” she says. “We see too often contractors who undercut themselves by not including the taxes.”

OSHA Compliance Assistant Specialist Bill Bankhead presented the newest safety rules being imposed.

“Don’t make it easy for me to do my job,” he says. “I can see from the road if you’re following safety guidelines.”

Bankhead gave several illustrations of what is compulsory as far as safety, but concluded by saying it’s the responsibility of the business owner to make working on a roof safe for his or her employees.

And, in the end, it was what wasn’t said that stuck with those who attended: Homeowners should be responsible to ask the right questions — being sure contractors pull permits, pay taxes and follow safety procedures and deadlines.

“We can work with the contractors to make certain they are doing their part, but the owner has to enforce it just as equally,” Gilliland says.

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rhicken@boise.bbb.org, 947-2115

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