Weather, changing technology and government regulations dominated the headlines in 2016 for replacement contactors. Here’s a look back at some of the biggest articles in those categories — and how they affected the industry.
Extreme Weather Woes
2015 will be remembered as a year of extreme weather throughout the nation. It started in January, when a series of unusually strong storms dumped more than 70 inches of snow on New England — enough to fill a football stadium 90 times. As roofs collapsed under the weight so much white stuff, roofing contractors dealt with waiting lists up to a week long for snow removals. But the winter weather stymied business for other contractors who couldn’t even get to customers. Everyone expected business to thrive once the snowmelt began.
Then in May, a series of sometimes-violent thunderstorms gave Texas and Oklahoma their wettest months on record. In the aftermath, overwhelmed contractors were inundated with desperate cries for help from homeowners. One contractor had nearly 200 leak calls in June alone. As floodwaters receded contractors geared up to do battle with FEMA over restoration funding.
November put an exclamation mark on the extreme weather year. Roofing contractors throughout California got flooded with business from a predicted El Nino that’s was being called mega, unprecedented and extreme. One climatologist had even dubbed it the “Godzilla El Nino.”
Online Home Services Expansion
It was a volatile year in the online home service market to say the least. In late March, Amazon.com, the omnipresent online retailer, announced its intention to launch a new category called Amazon Home Services. Much like other services such as Angie’s List and Yelp, Amazon’s entry relies heavily on user reviews to help customers decide which contractor to hire.
Then in September, Google officially launched its own home services offering.
Google’s service, initially only available in San Francisco, is part of the AdWords Express advertising app. Contractors must pay to be ranked among the first search results and must also pass a Google screening based on appropriate licenses and customer reviews.
Not long after Google and Amazon flexed their digital muscles, Porch, HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List all launched new programs and initiatives aimed at beefing up their offerings and securing their customers.
In May, two contracting firms got a costly lesson in violating Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations with a $294,500 fine resulting from three workers falling and injuring themselves. But they were far from alone as statistics revealed that roofing contractors receive more than $18 million in penalties for violating OSHA standards. Those penalties are likely to climb dramatically since OSHA was given permission to raise fines as much as 82 percent.
In October, another regulatory agency, the National Labor Relations Board, made a drastic and little-known change governing the relationship between businesses and employees that makes it easier for subcontractors to collectively bargain and unionize. Industry experts worried the change could “cripple” the industry.
Finally in late December, it was revealed that the IRS could fine employers offering health reimbursement accounts, or HRAs, as much $100 a day unless a bipartisan bill can be passed and approved. HRAs are a popular way for smaller employers who can’t offer health insurance benefits to help defray health-related costs.
What will 2016 hold? To find out, watch for our trends to watch in the New Year article coming in January.