Insurance company cancels policies for Atlas Chalet roofs

 

Some Georgia homeowners got letters from their insurance company telling them they must replace their roof out of their own pocket because they've got a certain type of shingle.

That shingle is called Atlas Chalet, discontinued years ago but still on tens of thousands of Georgia roofs.

These shingles have never been recalled or ruled defective, but lawsuits in several states claim they prematurely crack and fail.

And that's left homeowners like Jim Barrett in the worst possible position.

"It just reminds me of the frustration," Barrett said as he looked at four worn-down shingles he keeps in his Marietta garage.

One day he hopes he'll get back the money he spent out of his own pocket replacing his Atlas Chalet roof, when other insurance companies fully paid for his neighbors.

"It's tough when you hear - insurance is paying for my roof," Barrett says. "I can do a lot with $14,000 other than a roof."

For more than a decade starting in the late 1990s, the most popular shingle put on Georgia homes was the Atlas Chalet. It had the look of a more expensive architectural shingle by adding more glue and granules on certain raised sections of the shingle. But homeowners in several states are suing the company, claiming the shingles crack, blister and fail. Atlas denies they are defective, but stopped making the Chalet shingles in 2010.

With no new Chalet shingles available, some insurance companies agreed to pay for a whole new roof, even when just a handful of Atlas Chalet shingles had suffered storm damage.

Others, like Allstate and American Family Insurance, argued a homeowner could use a different company's shingle and just replace the damaged ones individually.

But roofers say the replacements are too big. Insurance commissioner Ralph Hudgens agreed.

"If it is hail or wind damage, they're obligated to replace the roof," Hudgens told FOX 5 I-Team reporter Randy Travis.

"Even if it's a couple of shingles?"

"If they can't get a suitable match, yes."

Some insurance companies have searched for cheaper alternatives.

An American Family Insurance letter suggests homeowners can still buy individual Atlas Chalet shingles from a discontinued building supply house.

But roofer Joe Pierron, who owns the website atlaschalet.com, says there's no guarantee old shingles are any good.

He says he offered to sell a pile of Chalet shingles he had in his garage, and one of the discontinued supply houses was ready to overnight him a $100 check.

"To not know or be able to verify where these shingles have been, since they discontinued them in 2010, that's a long 5-year gap of not knowing how those shingles have been stored," Pierron said.

Plus Atlas says putting their old shingles on your roof voids the warranty. Clearly, roofers make more money putting on a new roof, but they say that's their only option with Atlas Chalet. The question -- who should foot the bill?

"I've had people I've tried to help and then, yeah, they get a letter and then it says you have to replace their roof. We're not going to help you with it. You need to pay for it out of pocket or else we're just going to drop you," said Pierron.

When storms hit Jim Barrett's neighborhood, he says 11 other Atlas Chalet houses got replacement roofs. American Family Insurance denied both his claims, insisting the pictures he took do not prove he had storm damage at all.

But it gets worse.

"When I see an American Family commercial I want to cringe," Barrett said.

That's because a few months after they denied his claim, Jim got a letter from American Family telling him his policy was cancelled. The reason? Since they had come out to investigate his claims, American Family discovered he had "ineligible Atlas Chalet shingles."

"I was very frustrated. It was like, I pay for insurance and when I need it, it's not there. And it's like, why?" Barrett asked.

An American Family Insurance spokesman said the letter Jim got contained "bad language" and should have said the reason for the non-renewal was the poor condition of his roof, not the brand of shingles.

"They said they didn't… the wording was wrong," replied Barrett. "Well, I think the wording was wrong from the get-go. It should have said you're approved for a new roof."

In a statement, American Family says "we believe our approach is fair and reasonable to all our customers," and paying for entire new roofs would "harm insurance affordability for all our Georgia customers."

Allstate's response was much the same: "we evaluate roofs with Atlas Chalet shingles in the same manner we do roofs with any other shingles."

"Because of your interview this is the first time this has come to my attention," insurance commissioner Hudgens told Travis.

"Does it concern you?"

"Absolutely."

In order to get new insurance, Jim paid $14,000 out of his own pocket, replacing his Atlas Chalet roof with real architectural shingles.

Two years ago he switched insurance companies. He's now covered by Allstate.

"You've learned a lot about roofs recently." observed Travis.

"Oh yes. Oh yes," said Barrett. "And I've learned a lot about insurance companies."


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