Will long warranty help if company goes belly up?

March 3, 2011 7:49:49 PM PST
If you're considering some home improvement work, you might be thinking about hiring a contractor who offers a long-term warranty. It's a big incentive, but what happens to that warranty if the company changes hands or is no longer around?

A Marin County woman received what she thought was a rock solid 15-year warranty. However, when her roof started leaking, the roofing company wasn't answering the phone.

Beverly Tarbell had no idea there was any problem with her foam roof until a contractor happened to be up there one day.

"I said, 'Well, what's wrong?' and he said, 'the coating, they did not put sufficient coating down and it's all wearing away,'" said Tarbell.

That sign of trouble came when it began to rain.

"I noticed a huge water mark on the ceiling of the back family room," said Tarbell.

She pointed out a brown streak running 10 feet across the ceiling. Tarbell contacted Sierra Spray Foam Roofing which installed the roof back in 2002. Sierra Spray Foam Roofing sent a contractor to fix just the leak and he took a photo showing Tarbell roof was indeed peeling away.

"This coloring here is the foam and where it's all breaking away, it's the coating. It should be a smooth, flat surface over the foam. What that tells me is sooner or later that's all going to leak too," said Tarbell.

Tarbell figured no problem; she had seven years remaining on her 15-year warranty from Sierra Spray Foam Roofing, but when she demanded a repair, Tarbell was told that it would cost her money.

"He gave me a contract for $3,000 and something to do it and I said, 'No, I've got a warranty,' and that's when all the problems began," said Tarbell.

Tarbell kept calling Sierra Spray Foam Roofing demanding it make good on the warranty.

"They kept promising that the work was going to be done. Three separate times they told me, 'Oh, it's all set up. There will be someone out this week.' No one would show up and nothing ever got done and the roof started leaking even worse," said Tarbell.

It turned out the company had been in flux over the years. The owners retired, a son took over, it operated under various names and different state licenses. So she wondered who was responsible for the old warranty.

"Just by changing company names, doing something, saying that company no longer exists, it doesn't remove them from liability," said Rick Lopes from the Contractors State License Board.

Lopes said companies remain responsible for construction warranties even if they change hands.

"So, if they made these commitments, they are then required by law to uphold them. If they don't, then the contractors board can take action against that license," said Lopes.

So 7 On Your Side contacted Sierra Spray Foam Roofing and co-owner Robyn Stepps said the company always intended to honor the warranty, but because of family difficulties, she said, "There has not been anyone in the office for much of the past three years. We are back now and communications are much improved. We stand by our work and we definitely will make good on the warranty."

Stepps told 7 On Your Side the company would take care of Tarbell's roof as soon as the rains let up.

"That makes me very happy. I love the name 7 On Your Side because that's what it means. That finally, someone is on my side," said Tarbell.

What's even better, the company didn't wait until spring to fix the roof. Sierra Spray Foam Roofing managed to get to Tarbell's house in between all the rainstorms we've been having and just fixed the roof in time for the next storms.


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