Alex Gerhart and Zach Willard are the owners of GaleForce Roofing & Restoration.
Recently, the pair of roofing business owners made headlines for their successful lawsuit regarding the Florida 76 Bill, a proposal from state lawmakers that would have prohibited roofing companies from canvassing neighborhoods and encouraging homeowners to file insurance claims.
The Florida 76 Bill was signed by Florida governor Ron DeSantis on June 11, 2021, but soon after Gerhart and Willard responded, calling the new bill an infringement on their livelihood because it negatively impacts their ability to make money and support the employees who work for their roofing company.
Gerhart says that he didn’t want to file a lawsuit, but after the Florida 76 Bill was enacted, Gale Force Roofing & Restoration was left with few other options.
“Everyone seems to think that we went on the offensive and attacked the government while other roofing companies were waiting around to see how the dust was going to settle [from the impending bill],” Gerhart says.
“We didn’t see it that way. We feel like we were just defending our roofing company, our way of life, and our families.”
The Florida 76 Bill would have directly impacted Gale Force Roofing & Restoration because it would have limited the way the roofing company could procure new business.
While the bill was intended to reduce the nearly $40 billion in insurance fraud that occurs in Florida every year, Gerhart says that the new law would also have adverse effects on roofing companies like his who conduct business in an ethical and responsible manner.
Consequently, Gale Force Roofing & Restoration would have lost substantial amounts of revenue had their lawsuit been denied, in turn affecting the employees of the roofing company.
But Gerhart and Willard were unwilling to let that happen.
“When you own a business, especially one with as many employees as we have, we don’t make decisions based only on how Zack and I will be affected. Instead, we look at how these decisions will affect our families and the people who work for us,” Gerhart explains.
“We had to act. We saw SB76 [the proposed bill] coming from a mile away because politicians have been trying to pass this law for ten years.”
Even though Gerhart and Willard knew the threat of this proposed bill always lurked, it wasn’t until Governor DeSantis signed the new bill that reality set in and the roofing business owners began to formulate an action plan.
“Once we found out that this bill was going to become a law, we said `absolutely not.’ We had about a month before the governor signed it into law and in that month, we prepared our lawsuit,” Gerhart says.
Gerhart then adds that despite always knowing this type of law could be passed, he never expected it to come to fruition in a traditionally conservative state like Florida.
“We were surprised a Republican governor would sign off on something that would prohibit hard-working, blue-collar Americans from putting food on their tables,”
Perhaps more concerning is that since the roofing industry is a huge contributor to the Florida economy, many employees and families would have been negatively impacted by the new legislation, a fact that lawmakers appeared to ignore as they moved to bring Florida 76 Bill into law.
“Roofing companies put millions of dollars back into the Florida economy every single year. When you take into account employees, building suppliers, their families, and everyone else involved in the roofing industry, that’s a lot of people and a lot of money,” Gerhart says.
Thankfully, the owners of Gale Force Roofing & Restoration took action to combat the new law.
“We wanted to stand up against what we felt was wrong and fight for what’s right,” Gerhart notes.
Willard echoes his business partner’s sentiment.
“We were uncomfortable with the idea of the new law,” Willard says.
“But this lawsuit was one of those things where we didn’t hesitate when it came to following through on what we had to do. We wanted to take care of our employees and make sure that our livelihood was staying intact.”
At the same time, the pair of roofing business owners are hesitant to accept praise for their actions, with Gerhart remarking that in an ideal world he and Willard would not have had to file a lawsuit against the state of Florida.
“We didn’t want to sue the DBPR [Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and branch of Florida government],” Gerhart says.
“They are our license holders. We have nothing against them, but they just so happened to be the regulatory body that got put in charge of trying to enforce this law.”
For the record, the Florida 76 Bill had good intentions.
As mentioned, insurance fraud is rampant throughout the roofing industry in Florida.
Therefore, taking steps to cut down on that fraud is a worthy pursuit.
“We were not completely against all parts of the proposed law. There were parts of it that we found plausible, like trying to eliminate roofing companies soliciting homeowners through offering gift cards and money,” Gerhart says.
“But ultimately we didn’t agree with many parts of that bill, which is why we still maintain that prohibiting roofers like us from being able to do our jobs is not the right thing to do.”
Another element to the bill and the subsequent lawsuit was that included in the proposal were measures to prevent fraud from occurring in auto and healthcare insurance, two separate industries that have nothing to do with roofing.
More alarmingly, during the court proceedings, Gerhart says the state of Florida could not prove that roofing companies helping homeowners with their insurance claims had catastrophic consequences.
“The state had not done any research because all they cared about was addressing the fact that roofers were helping homeowners, and then homeowners were in turn filing claims, which hurt the bottom line of the insurance carriers,” Gerhart explains.
“It was the state’s burden to show that limiting communication between contractors and homeowners was going to cut down on $40 billion of insurance fraud, but they couldn’t show the correlation between the two.”
Ultimately, while there are a select number of roofing companies who commit insurance fraud, the new law proposed by the state of Florida would have severely harmed the majority of roofing companies who conduct business professionally and with integrity.
This is a major reason why Alex Gerhart and Zach Willard won their lawsuit.
“What the state was doing just didn’t make any sense,” Willard says.
“I can understand why the insurance companies wanted to do something about the fraud, but we’re not the problem and so our business and our employees shouldn’t have to suffer.”
To learn more about Gale Force Roofing & Restoration, visit their website today or give them a call at 813-212-9399!