Who Owns the Roof Assessment Data?

Article: No. OWND-KB-2-14.2


Introduction:  This article will provide a perspective on roofing data ownership when data collection is part of roof inspections and assessments. The Author is not a licensed attorney and will not provide any legal opinion on the actual ownership that may determined by the courts. The discussion is intended to provide questions to ask, and confirm business agreements to ensure data ownership is part of the discussion prior to hiring a service provider.


There are thousands of companies; dedicated inspection firms, system suppliers and organizations that provide a range of data and documents as part of their commercial roofing assessments,. Unfortunately, even registered roofing consultants are using business practices found in sales oriented roofing service firms to control account information, specifically inspection records, roof plans, photos etc. The opportunity for building owners is finding progressive assessment firms committed to less restrictive business practices allowing portable data for building owners. The author estimates only 20% of the assessment firms today have data portability included their deliverables. A good sign is experienced building owners have started to specify the technology platform where data can be retained.


If you're planning to contract for a number of roof assessments start by considering how to migrate assessment data to another firm. This question should lead to a discussion on what type of inspection data is part of the assessment deliverables.


If the service provider is uncomfortable with this inquiry, there may be business reason why their service is not intended for data migration. A gray area in many assessment service agreements is defining the deliverable; i.e. hard copy reports. If the deliverable is a PDF, then the electronic records used to create the report may be retained for leverage by the service provider, or if they offer their data; it may be unusable. Drilling into the detail can save organizations thousands of dollars in re-inspection expenses.


Preventing Lost Electronic Records

Building owners have realized the value of inspection records in some cases only after terminating a service provider. Then, are presented with a significant fee to transfer the electronic records, or the data which was the centerpiece of expensive multiple year service agreement, upon closer inspection, is in a unusable format, or built specifically for the firm using it.


When surveys and condition assessments cost thousands of dollars, there is a good reason to ensure inspection information is organized and managed for the long term. Historical inspection records save data entry costs when as built information is in place. The facility descriptions, construction types, sizes rarely change. Once documented, structured correctly, updating conditions can be done in less than half the time required to set-up the original database.


Roof Data:  Building owner steps to retaining reusable roofing data.

  1. Confirm the electronic roofing observation data to be included in the deliverable.
  2. Is it clearly stated that all electronic records are owned by the building owner?
  3. Did the service provider disclose the data collection standards being used?
  4. Can the building owner purchase the software being used or is it proprietary?


Value:  The inspection data can be very valuable when there are clear expectations for the data being collected, data structure, consistency, quality of inspection observations. The value can also be very low if the roofing records are presented in a hard copy PDF, proprietary software and data format owned and developed by the service provider.


Free Services

Are you currently receiving free or a below market fees for annual inspections and roofing asset management? The data management services could be discounted or provided as a sales expense. Unfortunately, it is also very common to find soft barriers around low fee inspection data. If you feel you may have a problem retaining your electronic records, estimate a dollar value of the records if they are withheld.


Ask, for any clarification in writing to ensure your concerns are on the record before the service period ends. In many cases, the free services are paid for with premium pricing for supplies and repairs. The building owner pays the fee, just not as a direct assessment expense.


Vendor Data Islands

Here are a few roof assessment vendor red flags.

  1. There is only one firm using the technology; it's not available to the general public.
  2. Data can't be electronically shared with another service provider.
  3. The methods to rate conditions and reach opinions are not transparent.
  4. There is no industry naming standards i.e. CSI used for as built material references.
  5. The building owner is not given an option to save their roofing data off site.


For building owners make a point to confirm how a usable copy of their roofing data will be transferred to them. Ask for examples of previous of building owners that received their data. If the firm can't produce verifiable examples, try confirming the data format, description of data fields in their program records. As previously stated look for signs the data is in proprietary closely held systems, a red flag for a data island.



As stated in the opening, due to the fragmented solutions, approaches and methodologies being used to provide roof assessment services, building owners need to question the type of assessment information collected and confirm the data ownership. The author can recommend full disclosure when offering roofing services to insure building owners have an opportunity to retain historical data for the long term management of the building(s).



By reviewing how these companies view their ownership of the data they provide, building owners and property managers can specify the ownership of the roofing data as part of the roof asset management service. Please refer licensed legal counsel for any specific question on data ownership. The Author can be reached by e-mail for questions concerning content or the opinions expressed in this article. Please use the Article number for reference.



Building Owners, Property Managers, Facility Managers, V.P. Construction, Director of Building and Grounds, School Boards, Town Managers, Condo Construction Committees.


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