This is a warning post, just a sign sticking in the mud. Why? Because I don't think I can do anything about it and this has cause me an incredible amount of stress in the last year. And it doesn't end a bang or even a remotely satisfying ending, just a whimper of a long rotted wound being stitched over.
Let's start with the first bit, all the information about Iowa Metal Roofs that I reference here is public record, mainly by searching for business number 532648, or “Iowa Metal Roofs” at the Iowa Secretary of State website. Also their website, just do a search for “Iowa Metal Roofs”.
As some of you know, about two years ago, a derecho decided to slam through the town of Cedar Rapids and did a pretty good number on my house. It stripped the roof down to the plywood, punched a hole in the back of my house, and flooded my basement. Like a half million other people, as soon as we got power again, I called around to get someone to help repair the damage and make our house safe again. There was also a lot of cutting down trees that fell on our roof.
One of our thoughts was that we would upgrade to steel roofing and siding. One, because not everyone was going to go there so we hoped the supply chain wouldn't be as impacted but also because we planned on living in the house for at least ten more years and steel made more sense.
As our usual, almost no one called back (see half a million other people calling for the same thing) but we did get a few nibbles. One of them happened to be Iowa Metal Roofs which seemed to be a good business with a track record in Iowa. After a brief quote and discussion with Jim (see their website or the Secretary of State), we signed a contract to get new roof, siding, gutters, and soffit from the place.
|Soffit & fascia||3,956.26|
This was almost two months after the damage because our insurance company didn't even get an adjuster to us for almost a month. They also didn't even give us remotely this close, so we ended up needing a home equity line of credit (HELOC) to cover the sizable difference to upgrade.
A month later, supplies showed up and about half a month after that the dumpster came and our new roof was going on. A swarm of workers came and scraped off the roof. It was a wonderful time to be excited.
Then, things started to go wrong. At first, it was a mistiming with the roof coming off and repairs. That caused our kitchen light to flood with water and fall off, plus water trickling through the walls and creating a second flooded basement.
Promises were made to hurry up.
Weeks later, the roof started to go on. We were hoping it was a one or two day job, but it ended up taking months because there was only a single person working on it late at night. One person, at night, working steel roofing.
In December, right before the weather went bad, we had another flurry of work where all the soffits were torn out and replaced. Things looked good and there was “only a few minor things left on the roof” so we paid our second check.
Winter was stressful. They left tools and ladders on the ground, not to mention a few hundred pounds of roofing material. I cleaned up the best I could, but it ended up being cringing as our eldest dog (who was going blind and deaf) would stumble over snow-buried crap.
But, I told myself, it would be worked on in the next year and things would be finally done.
I started calling when the snow melted, leaving a message because Jim stopped answering.
“Do you think you could give me a status?”
“Do you have idea when you'll start up?”
“Please call me.”
Nothing. No callback. I have a log of every call and email I made, every request that was never answered.
Then the letter came. My neighbors complained about all the roofing material still on the ground that he didn't clean up. So a letter came around, pick it up or pay almost a thousand dollars for us to do it.
My calls to Iowa Metal Roofs got a bit more frantic.
“Are you going to clean up the mess you said you were?”
“Please call me.”
“Are you still working on this?”
He did show up without announcing himself, dropped off a trailer, made a token effort to pick up stuff, and left. We suspect he didn't realize how much crap there was and left. Didn't call or anything.
Assuming he shafted us, we ended up loading all the waste on the driveway and in his trailer the night before the city was going to come. I didn't want to get billed and I was so torn up that he would just screw us over.
That night, after we spent hours cleaning up, he said he would bring his worker (the guy on the roof) and clean up. It was pretty easy since we did the bulk of it. We were lucky because we saw the city truck slow down behind him as he was gathering up his mess and then drive off.
After all that, he finally called me. He said he was sorry, he would work on our siding as soon as possible, and he would take a thousand dollars off of his bill.
That was the last time I heard from the man.
I gave him two weeks. Nothing. I left a message.
Two more weeks, nothing. Another message. Maybe two.
Two more weeks, then a week. More calls, more requests to know when he was going to start. Were the parts ordered? What was going on?
I tried… for six months to get him to call me back and finish the job he took money from. April to October. I even went to a lawyer and had a letter drafted up that said I would work with him if he would just contact me and talk.
As a side note, the lawyer told me that I was one of the best organized people she had encountered. Yes, it was probably just ego-ruffling, but I had a log of every call, a copy of every email, every deliverable, photocopies of the checks and his endorsements, and pictures to back up everything. I could show over a year of trying to get it done.
The end result was this:
The letter got sent certified mail, but Jim didn't pick up. So I had to have the letter served. A hundred bucks just to say “work with me, please.”
It was served and he ignored it.
I was now over $800 in the hole for lawyer fees trying to work with him and still nothing. I couldn't afford to sue him, so I sat on it for a little bit and then started a small claims against him. The maximum was $6,500 but it was something when I didn't think I could get anything at that point.
Now, the page for Small Claims in Iowa has such wonderful documentation on how to start the small claims process. They even had a website where it would fill out most of the initial paperwork for you and I just had to file it.
I also had to have another set of papers served to Jim. This time, I went with the sheriff's department. They took a week because Riverside was so far out of their way, and then a few weeks for apparently the sheriff to actually hand the paperwork into the office but eventually I got it.
And sat and waited.
When the court says there would be a response in twenty days, it isn't true. It took until the end of November before I got anything. This also led into an uncomfortable conversation with the clerk's office who answer to any question was “we can't give legal advice.”
“Did I miss something?”
“We can't give legal advice.”
“Is my claims waiting to be processed?”
“We can't give legal advice.”
“Is it in the queue for a magistrate?”
“We can't give legal advice.”
Eventually, I reached out the to the lawyer for advice. She was on maternity leave but still gave me a few hints. I got some papers notarized and added them to the mess. I was at the point of “just one more step and I'm going to give up.”
That last one was it. I needed a notarized paper summarizing the claim with the tables and everything in a single PDF. The response came asking for a form that I could not find how to fill out. I tried to search Google for it, couldn't find anything. I even posted on Reddit asking for help and got nothing.
Back to the lawyer. I still don't understand what she did differently, but she filled out the one form I couldn't figure out, had me bundled everything into a single PDF, and try again.
That was finally accepted. A few days later, I got my judgment and Iowa Metal Roofs owes me $6,500 out of the $10,915.69 Jim stole from me and the $1,117.38 in legal and filing costs it took me to get ask for it.
At the same time, I also tried calling Veritile because Jim said he just had a “few minor things” but never came back. I figured they had a contact form for requests for contractors and they could find someone who would tell me what Jim didn't do so I can get the roof finished. Sadly, after two form entries and multiple phone calls, they declined to return my calls. As far as I'm concerned, they make beautiful steel roofs but they have no interest in helping after that.
The roof Iowa Metal Roofs put in looks beautiful. It isn't finished and they tore off my gutters and never replaced them, but the tiles look great. I just don't know if they are properly installed. I've been struggling with this and everything going on in the last five months.
I also had to get a new HELOC that doubled by debt because I still don't have siding. So, I had to cover the loan from the first around, including the roof, and pay for siding all over again. The color isn't as beautiful (we wanted sapphire, not a weak blue) but at least the contractor is calling me once every few weeks to let me know they haven't forgotten me. Maybe in 2022, I'll actually get the hole in the back of my house repaired and maybe some new gutters?
In the end, I don't think I can ever get the money back. Jim didn't bother answering the court, he didn't care to answer any certified or served letter, and he updated his website to show he's still in business.
On the other hand, I still have a basement gutted from the flood, a hole in the back of my house, a roof that isn't done, and no gutters in Iowa. That isn't including the debt that has been weighing me down and will continue to do so for at least ten more years.
Since I'm unable to recover the money I gave him, I'm creating this post as a warning to others: Don't work with Jim Murphy of Iowa Metal Roofs (also known as Iowa Metal Roofing Supply LLC). You may have a great experience, or he might leave you with a half-finished job and ghost you after taking your money.