January 28, 2014 | Filed under: Roofing Issues

“Can you provide liability and workers’ comp insurance certificates?”

This is a very important question you can ask your metal roofer, or any home-improvement contractor. Both of these are very important types of insurance that contractors should have, and you should verify, before they are allowed to work on your home.

Liability insurance protects the contractor (and therefore you) from damages caused to your property, or injuries caused to you, your family or guests by the contractor while working on your home. Liability insurance is relatively inexpensive to get, even for small contractors or companies without much of a proven track record. For this reason, it should be very easy to verify and a VERY bad sign if they don’t have it.

Workers’ compensation insurance, or workers’ comp, protects the contractor (and you) in case a worker gets injured on the job. Workers’ comp pays the injured worker for medical care, missing wages, and other damages resulting from his on-the-job injury. Because roofing is a relatively high-risk occupation, workers’ comp insurance is expensive. Also, contractors’ premiums for workers’ comp can vary depending on their years of experience and track record. In Kentucky, workers’ comp for roofing contractors can range from 25 cents to 50 cents or more for every dollar paid to a worker in wages. So if a roofer earns $15 an hour and works 40 hours a week, workers’ comp for that employee could cost $150 to $300 per week, as an example.

Because workers’ compensation insurance is so expensive, many roofers, especially smaller companies, do not carry it. This can put you at tremendous risk because if a worker is injured while working on your home, that worker can sue the contractor AND YOU for lost wages, health care, and other damages as a result of the injury. If the contractor does not have workers comp insurance and also does not have very deep pockets, all the more likely that you will find yourself involved in a lawsuit over these costs.

So before any metal roofer works on your home, ask him to provide you certificates of insurance showing General Liability and Workers’ Compensation policies and coverage amounts. Feel free to call the insurance company shown on the certificate and VERIFY that the policy is current and in good standing (really the certificate should be generated on a per-job basis and even show your name and address as “certificate holder” but checking it out is still a good idea).

A common variation of this question as recommended by other home-improvement gurus is “Are you licensed, bonded and insured?” And sometimes I hear the question asked this way. A couple important differences are at play here, though:

1)      Bonding is rarely if ever used for residential jobs. A surety bond is a small insurance policy that a contractor can take out to protect the owner(s) of a large commercial project in case the contractor should go out of business during the job. I’ve never heard of bonds being used for residential jobs, and it is not a common practice.

2)      There is no roofing license in Kentucky, so it’s pointless to ask if a roofer is licensed and it’s a lie if they tell you they are—there IS no such license (at the state level—some counties and municipalities have business licenses that are essentially extra taxes). This is all the more reason, though, that you need to check out the background, talk to previous customers, and see the work done by the contractor you are considering.