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TDCI: Don’t Sweat Home Improvement Projects this Summer!

NASHVILLE — With the arrival of summer and warmer weather, Tennessee homeowners frequently launch home improvement and renovation projects that can add beauty, increase comfort, and improve a property’s value. Unfortunately, scammers, bad actors, and fly-by-night contractors can create headaches and frustrations for unsuspecting consumers.

To help consumers avoid the pitfalls during renovation season, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (“TDCI”) and the Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors remind consumers of the steps they can take today to ensure they hire a licensed contractor — and what they should do if they discover a contractor has not lived up to his or her end of the bargain.

“Before hiring a contractor to begin any home improvement project large or small, we encourage consumers to learn Tennessee’s rules governing contractors,” said Board Executive Director Michael Morrelli. “While the majority of Tennessee’s contractors play by the rules and deliver quality work, there may be some who leave consumers dissatisfied. If consumers ever feel mistreated, they can contact our team to file a complaint.”

So far in 2023, the Board has received 249 complaints with 38 of those complaints resulting in disciplinary actions totaling over $85,250 in citations. By comparison, the Board received 521 complaints in 2022 with162 of those complaints resulted in Disciplinary action totaling $283,050.00.

Consumers can check the complaint and disciplinary history of a contractor by contacting the Board for Licensing Contractors by phone at (800) 544-7693 or (615) 741-8307 or emailing our team at contractors.home-improvement@tn.gov. To file a complaint, consumers should visit our website at tn.gov/commerce.

Consumers should remember that Tennessee's felony theft law covers consumers whenever a contractor takes money and fails to perform work within 90 days. Pursuant to T.C.A. § 39-14-105, consumers may contact local law enforcement and file charges to prosecute the contractor for theft. More information about the law can be found here.

Before starting a home-improvement project, consumers should familiarize themselves with the following tips to help ensure the project goes smoothly.

  • Before hiring a professional, consumers should first visit TDCI’s Verify licensing database in order to verify that the individual is properly licensed to work in Tennessee. The status of a professional’s license, how long the individual or company has been licensed, when their license expires, and additional helpful information can all be found at Verify.
  • Consumers are encouraged to file complaints with TDCI when they feel they have been the victim of an unfair or deceptive business practice, witness unlicensed activity, or seen suspected misconduct or other violations of respective laws or rules.
  • In Tennessee, a contractor’s license is required before bidding or price negotiations when the total cost of the project is $25,000 or more.
  • For work less than $25,000, consumers should check with their local government’s  building codes office to confirm whether a contractor needs a state license or local license to perform home improvement, electrical, plumbing or HVAC work, as well as their permit requirements for inspections.
  • Get several bids and check references before committing to a contractor.
  • Be wary of contractors selling repairs door-to-door, especially when they ask to receive payment upfront or offer deep discounts.
  • Generally, do not pay more than 1/3 of the cost of a project upfront. Make sure you have the terms of payment in writing.

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