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Before hiring a contractor to remodel or renovate your home, make sure you do your homework

rental homes
Posted at 6:20 AM, Mar 31, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tn. (WTVF) — Many people have something in their home they'd like to change. Maybe it's redoing the kitchen or updating the bathroom. And spring is a popular time to tackle that sort of renovation or remodeling work. But these sorts of projects can quickly go south, especially if you don't do your homework or know who you are dealing with.

Before you start a home improvement project, here's a word or two of advice.

"With stimulus money coming in and with the spring season coming up, people are going to want to spend that money and improve their homes. We want you to be careful about who you’re dealing with and making sure that what they promise is what they deliver, " Kevin Walters with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance said.

The department oversees the state's Board for Licensing Contractors. And, the Board recommends that before you hire anyone, you check them out. Not only should you get references, but you should also contact the Contractor's Board and find out if that person has a history of complaints or disciplinary actions.

You'll also want to make sure they're properly licensed.

"It is important to remember in Tennessee, a contractor's license is required before bidding or price negotiations begin when the total cost of the project is $25,000 or more," Walters stated.

And several Tennessee counties, including Davidson, Robertson and Rutherford, require contractors to have a Home Improvement license for projects over $3,000.

You'll also want to be sure to get several bids. And, once you settle on one, get it in writing.

"Get a written contract that includes the contractors name, their address, telephone number. When you’re going to have an anticipated start date and completion date," Walters recommended.

And, as for paying for the work, don't pay it all upfront.

"You should remember the Tennessee‘s Home Improvement law prohibits contractors from asking for a down payment of more than 1/3 of the total contract. So if someone is pressuring you to pay more than 1/3 of the cost of the contract or telling you to pay all of what the project costs, you should walk away. You are dealing with someone you probably can’t trust," Walters explained.

You'll also want to document the entire project, taking photos and videos of the work from start to finish.

And if your contractor doesn't finish the job?

"If that contractor leaves you holding the bag and walks away, Tennessee’s Felony Theft law covers consumers whenever a contractor takes money and fails to perform the work within 90 days," Walters told NewsChannel 5.

And if that happens to you, you can file theft charges against the contractor. Just contact your local police department.

You are also encouraged to report them to the state board who can take disciplinary action against their license.

To check the complaint and disciplinary history of a contractor, contact the Board for Licensing Contractors at (800) 544-7693 or (615) 741-8307 or email the department at contractors.home-improvement@tn.gov.

To file a complaint, go to tn.gov/commerce.

The Commerce and Insurance Department also recommends:

  • 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.
  • Ask the contractor who will be performing the work: the contractor, his or her employee(s) or a subcontractor.
  • Make sure the contractor is insured to cover workers’ compensation, damage and general liability insurance by requesting copies of the contractor’s insurance certificates showing a current effective date.
  • Never pay with cash or ever pay the total charges before the work is complete.
  • To avoid falling victim to deceptive sales tactics, TDCI reminds consumers to look out for common red flags, such as:
  • An unlicensed person going door-to-door selling their service.
  • A person who uses high pressure sales tactics by offering services for a short time only, which makes consumers feel rushed and unable to research the contractors properly.
  • Avoid working with someone who uses unmarked trucks or vans or refuses to set out complete and specific contract terms in writing.