The purpose of this article is to provide roofing contractors a general overview of some common compliance issues that roofers experience when conducting business in the state of Missouri. In hopes that businesses and contractors will have better statutory compliance in the future and to reduce customer complaints and unscrupulous business practices, we have prepared a general rundown of some caveats and tips that contractors should be aware of when carrying out roofing work in Missouri.
1. Do not offer to pay any part of the customer’s deductible or provide a discount or rebate as part of the roof sale
Although you could sell the job a lot easier if the customer had no out-of-pocket expenses, Missouri law prohibits contractors from offering to pay the insurance deductible or otherwise creatively working around the statute.
The specific statute set forth under section 407.725.6, R.S.Mo., states:
“A contractor shall not advertise or promise to pay or rebate all or any portion of any insurance deductible as an inducement to the sale of goods or services. As used in this section, a promise to pay or rebate includes granting any allowance or offering any discount against the fees to be charged or paying the insured or any person directly or indirectly associated with the property any form of compensation, gift, prize, bonus, coupon, credit, referral fee, or other item of monetary value for any reason.” R.S.Mo. § 407.725.2 (2014); https://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneSection.aspx?section=407.725
As you can imagine, unscrupulous contractors regularly attempt to employ this tactic on unwary customers. Replacing a roof is a lot more appealing for the customer when the customer has no expenses. However, the Missouri legislature found that the negative impact on society outweighs the benefit and have prohibited such conduct. Accordingly, roofing contractors should not utilize such techniques or make any of the above-mentioned offerings to induce the customer into entering into the contract.
If you have questions regarding advertising or the legality of other sales techniques, please do not hesitate to contact us.
2. Do not offer to negotiate insurance claims for customers
While it may seem natural to speak to the insurance company on behalf of the customer, such conduct is prohibited in Missouri.
The statutory section, 407.725.6, R.S.Mo., which bars such conduct, states the following, in relevant part:
“A contractor shall not represent or negotiate, or offer or advertise to represent or negotiate, on behalf of an owner or possessor of real estate on any insurance claim in connection with the repair or replacement of roof systems, or the performance of any other exterior repair, replacement, construction, or reconstruction work.” R.S.Mo. § 407.725.6 (2014); https://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneSection.aspx?section=407.725.
The consequence of representing or negotiating on a customer’s behalf will likely constitute a violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act and could evoke a response from the Missouri Attorney General or could potentially lead to punishment for the unauthorized practice of law.
If the customer has a valid insurance claim due to hail or storm damage or some other covered claim, you should make your observations and analysis and refer the homeowner to competent legal counsel to assist with obtaining coverage from the insurance company. Do not risk the potential consequences that can result from violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act. The risk is not worth the reward. If you have questions regarding your statutory duties or questions about insurance contract negotiations.
3. Include Statutory Lien Notice in your Contract
Although many contractors do not know how mechanic’s liens work, they do know that mechanic’s liens can be an effective tool to collect payment on an outstanding balance from owners or other contractors. Depending on the situation, mechanic’s liens can be instrumental in getting you paid. Thus, it is critical to ensure that you preserve the right to file a mechanic’s lien on your project. Missouri mechanic’s liens can be trick and have a few rigid statutory requirements.
One of the most important requirements of filing a mechanic’s lien is providing proper notice. Missouri requires general contractors to provide notice to owner as a prerequisite or a condition precedent to filing a mechanic’s lien. Specifically, the applicable portion of section 429.012, R.S.MO., states the following:
Every original contractor, who shall do or perform any work or labor upon, or furnish any material, fixtures, engine, boiler or machinery for any building, erection or improvements upon land, or for repairing the same, under or by virtue of any contract…shall provide to the person with whom the contract is made or to the owner if there is no contract, prior to receiving payment in any form of any kind from such person, (a) either at the time of the execution of the contract, (b) when the materials are delivered, (c) when the work is commenced, or (d) delivered with first invoice, a written notice which shall include the following disclosure language in ten-point bold type:
NOTICE TO OWNER
FAILURE OF THIS CONTRACTOR TO PAY THOSE PERSONS SUPPLYING MATERIAL OR SERVICES TO COMPLETE THIS CONTRACT CAN RESULT IN THE FILING OF A MECHANIC’S LIEN ON THE PROPERTY WHICH IS THE SUBJECT OF THIS CONTRACT PURSUANT TO CHAPTER 429, RSMO. TO AVOID THIS RESULT YOU MAY ASK THIS CONTRACTOR FOR “LIEN WAIVERS” FROM ALL PERSONS SUPPLYING MATERIAL OR SERVICES FOR THE WORK DESCRIBED IN THIS CONTRACT. FAILURE TO SECURE LIEN WAIVERS MAY RESULT IN YOUR PAYING FOR LABOR AND MATERIAL TWICE.
Any contractors who collect payment of any type on a construction project without first having provided the above-cited notice will have waived their right to file a mechanic’s lien. This does not preclude you from pursuing the owner or contractor under breach of contract or quantum meruit claims. However, it is well-advised to preserve all of your rights, so you have these respective collection tools at your disposal in case you need them. Accordingly, this notice to owner must be provided by any general contractor on the project that wants to later assert mechanic’s lien rights against the property upon which the work was performed.
4. Include a provision in your contract that allows for the recovery of attorney’s fees
In Missouri, parties to a lawsuit can typically only recover attorney’s fees if there is some statutory or contractual basis providing for the recovery of the same. Alternatively, if there is an incredibly unique situation where equities have to be be balanced or if litigation occurs as the result of a wrong committed by a third-party, courts may allow the recovery of attorney’s fees. “Generally, awards of attorney’s fees are permitted “only when called for by a contract; when provided by statute; when incurred as an item of damages because of involvement in collateral litigation; or ‘when a court of equity finds it necessary to adjudge them in order to balance benefits.’” Boone Valley Farm, Inc. v. Historic Daniel Boone Home, Inc., 941 S.W.2d 720 (Mo. App. 1997).
Nearly every roofing contractor that calls seeking counsel asks whether they can recover attorney’s fees. Many of those contractors find that they do not have any basis for recovering attorney’s fees.
This is an easy fix, however, but it has to be implemented before the project by including the provision into the contract. A contract that includes an attorney’s fees provision gives the contractor significantly more leverage when pursuing their claim.
Obviously, the factual situation must also be evaluated because there may be some statutory basis to recover attorney’s fees despite not having the desired contractual language. However, generally speaking, there is typically no recovery of attorney’s fees on residential projects, unless the attorney’s fees provision is in the contract, whereas there may be a right to recover attorney’s fees on a commercial project by way of the Missouri Prompt Payment Act.
For purposes of this article, we will not discuss the Missouri Prompt Payment Act. However, you should take heed to the warnings contained in this article, avoid the potential loss of leverage if the case goes to court, and protect yourself by including an attorney’s fees/costs/expenses provision in your contract. That goes for contracts with homeowners as well as those with subcontractors.
If you have questions about drafting up an attorney’s fees provision or other contractual provisions, please contact us.
5. Include a provision that allows for the collection of interest on outstanding balances
When someone refuses to pay you, it is frustrating feeling. Not only do you want to recover the balance, but you also want to tack on an extra $100 per day or charge them anything and everything you can. The only way to get equitable recourse during the pursuit of an outstanding debt is to have the debt accruing interest. Another tool to increase the pressure is the inclusion of a liquidated damages provision. Liquidated damages are discussed at length in another article on this website, but the focus of this article is to express the importance of including an interest provision in all roofing contracts.
The industry rate that we typically see is 1.5% per month or 18% per annum interest rate on outstanding balances. That means that if you are owed $10,000 for a year, you would be entitled to collect $1,800 per year in interest in addition to the $10,000 principal amount owed. This is critical especially when many lawsuits can be stretched out over the course of a one to several years. The interest provision creates leverage against the debtor to pressure them into paying the amount that is rightfully due. Alternatively, if the case goes to trial and you prevail, the debtor will have to pay the principal and the 18% interest on that principal.
If you need help collecting from someone who owes you money for work performed, please contact us now.
6. Form a Missouri Limited Liability Company to provide protection and to have standing to pursue any legal claims the company may have
A limited liability company can be formed under chapter 347 of the Missouri Revised Statutes. In order to be afforded limited liability protection in the state of Missouri, the organizers/management of a company must register with the Missouri Secretary of State.
Additionally, the Missouri Courts will not recognize a business entity that is not registered in the state. Thus, if the contractor is dealing with a non-paying customer, the contractor will have to standing prior to instituting a formal lawsuit in court. In order to have standing in Missouri, a limited liability company, including any roofers, whether individuals, entities, or contractors, conducting business in the state of Missouri, must register their company with the Missouri Secretary of State.
Many banks will not allow you to open a company bank account without first creating an LLC and preparing an operating agreement, obtaining an articles of organization and an EIN. Additional, there may be tax ramifications on a state and/or federal level for those companies who fail to register their LLC and/or obtain an EIN.
For numerous reasons, it is important to take care of the LLC formation and getting all of your other organizational documentation and affairs in order before conducting business in Missouri. If you need assistance in setting up or modifying an existing business, LLC, or corporation, please contact one of our lawyers for further assistance.
7. You must allow customers who are paying through their insurance company the opportunity to cancel the roofing contract within 5 days of receiving acceptance or denial from insurance company.
Contractors have to give customers the opportunity to cancel the roofing contract in the event that the insurance company denies their claim.
The relevant portion of section 407.725.3, R.S.Mo., states:
“A person who has entered into a written contract with a contractor to provide goods or services to be paid under a property and casualty insurance policy may cancel the contract prior to midnight on the fifth business day after the insured party has received written notice from the insurer that all or any part of the claim or contract is not a covered loss under the insurance policy.”
Failure to give the customer the option to cancel the contract will be deemed a violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act. Violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act can come with steep consequences and a serious headache that takes the focus off of running your business.
Please call if you have questions regarding statutory or contractual rights relating to roofing jobs.
This article was intended to inform the general public and roofing contractors about some of the important issues surrounding roofing projects and associated contracts/documentation. The article covered several provisions that should be included in roofing contracts as well as certain acts that are prohibited pursuant to Missouri law.
Specifically, the article discussed:
- Not using deductibles as a way to induce roof sales;
- Refraining from negotiating or representing customers in the insurance claims process;
- Include the statutory mechanic’s lien notice in your contract;
- Include an attorney’s fees provision in your contract;
- Include an interest provision in your contract for outstanding balances.
For those roofing contractors who follow these suggestions, so long as you are generally complying with OSHA requirements, other general statutes, and otherwise conducting fair business, your approach will comport with best business practices in the roofing industry.
If you need assistance or specific guidance from a Missouri construction law attorney, please do not hesitate to contact us. We offer free consultations and can provide you direction in how to move forward in your case.
Please call us now if you’re looking to learn more about your rights as a contractor.