NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance’s (TDCI) Division of Consumer Affairs is warning consumers about contractors making door-to-door or telephone solicitations offering to renovate or repair your home.
Often these contractors are high-pressure salespersons seeking to convince homeowners to sign a contract, and then they hire inexperienced, unlicensed individuals as “subcontractors.”
“In the wake of the December storms and the cold winter months still ahead, home repair is a priority for many Tennesseans,” TDCI Deputy Commissioner Bill Giannini said. “Before signing a contract to authorize any construction or repairs, consumers should first educate themselves and verify the credentials of their contractors.”
To protect yourself, only hire licensed contractors. Visit verify.tn.gov to ensure that a contractor is properly licensed to work in the State of Tennessee. Ask the contractor who will be performing the work: contractor, his/her employee(s) or a subcontractor.
Other tips and information:
Who is required to be licensed?
• Contractors (Includes Construction Managers) — Projects $25,000 or more.
• Home Improvement — Projects greater than $3,000 in Bradley, Davidson, Haywood, Hamilton, Knox, Marion, Robertson, Rutherford, and Shelby counties.
• LLE- Limited Licensed Electrician — Jobs less than $25,000. (Required in any municipality or county that does not issue licenses to persons who perform electrical work in the municipality or county. If a municipality or county does require such licensure then the municipal or county license must be obtained.)
• LLP — Limited Licensee Plumber — Jobs less than $25,000. (Required in any municipality or county that does not issue licenses to persons who perform plumbing work in the municipality or county. If a municipality or county does require such licensure then the municipal or county license must be obtained.)
• Pre-Licensed Exam Course Providers — Schools Offering Contractor Exam Prep Classes
• Electrical and Plumbing Subcontractors — Jobs involving electrical and plumbing work. License required depends on value of the project. (See LLE and LLP listings above.)
• Mechanical Subcontractors (e.g. HVAC) — Where the total cost of the mechanical portion of the construction project is twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) or more.
• Roofing Subcontractors — Where the total cost of the roofing portion of the construction project is twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) or more.
• Masonry Subcontractors — Where the total cost of the masonry portion of the construction project exceeds one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000).
• Check with your local government for codes, permits, inspections and business licenses.
• Make sure the contractor obtains a permit for code inspections. For more information about codes enforcement, click here.
• View the Regulatory Board’s Disciplinary Actions reports to check the contractor’s complaint and discipline history.
• Always obtain more than one estimate.
• Get a written contract. Click here for “A Consumer’s Guide to Home Improvement Contracts.”
• Ask who will be performing the work. Often, the contractor is a “salesman” and may subcontract the work to inexperienced, unlicensed individuals misclassified as a subcontractor paid in cash, for the contractor to avoid taxes.
• Ask for proof of insurance.
• Never pay cash. Do not pay the total amount before the work is complete. Do not turn over your insurance check. Consider paying with a credit card for special protection.
• If a contractor accepts payment without performing the work, this may be considered felony theft. Review Tennessee law to view steps to prosecute through your local district attorney’s office.
• It is unlawful for an “unlicensed” contractor to file a lien if they are required to be licensed.
To file a complaint against a problem contractor, or call 1-800-544-7693, or visit www.tn.gov/regboards for more tips to consider before hiring a contractor. For more consumer tips, visit www.tn.gov/consumer.