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What Are Tennessee Contractors?

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance’s Regulatory Boards Division is composed of 23 professional boards, programs, and commissions that are tasked with the licensing and regulation of more than 200,000 professionals in the state. These professionals include architects, engineers, electricians, plumbers, and other construction and home improvement-related contractors like carpenters, HVAC contractors, and masons.

Per the Tennessee Contractor Licensing Law, contractors in Tennessee are individuals or entities that are involved in the construction, alteration, improvement, repair, movement, or demolition of buildings, highways, roads, housing developments, and other similar public and private structures in the state. This involvement can be through supervision, overseeing, management, or actual construction work. There are several subsets of contractors in Tennessee, which include:

  • Prime contractors: These are contractors that contract directly with the owner of the project
  • Subcontractors: These are individuals that enter into an agreement with a contractor or a fellow subcontractor to perform a specific part of the contractor’s project. Subcontractors typically specialize in a particular trade. Note that subcontractors do not include laborers or material men
  • Home improvement contractors: These are individuals who are not bona fide employees of a homeowner that are involved in the paid alteration, repair, replacement, alteration, modernization, conversion, or improvement of the homeowner’s real property.

Any prime contractor in Tennessee that wishes to work on a project that costs $25,000 or more, inclusive of materials and labor, is required to obtain a contractor’s license from the state’s Department of Commerce and Insurance. Electrical, plumbing, HVAC, mechanical, and roofing subcontractors that wish to perform work on projects that cost $25,000 or more, as well as masonry subcontractors that wish to work on projects that cost $100,000 or more, are also required to obtain a contractor’s license. Several counties in Tennessee also issue mandatory local licenses for electricians and plumbers that wish to perform work on projects that are less than $25,000. Finally, nine counties in the state currently require home improvement contractors to obtain a home improvement license for residential remodeling projects that cost more than $3,000 but less than $25,000. These counties are Bradley, Davidson, Hamilton, Haywood, Knox, Marion, Robertson, Rutherford, and Shelby Counties.

The Department of Commerce and Insurance is not the only governmental body that licenses and regulates professionals in Tennessee. Medical and health practitioners are licensed and regulated by the state's Department of Health through its Board of Medical Examiners, while the state’s Judicial Branch oversees the licensing and regulation of attorneys. It is estimated that Tennessee currently has about 18,800 licensed attorneys, with an attorney to resident ratio of 2.8 attorneys per 1,000 residents.

Tips for Hiring a Contractor
in Tennessee

Before hiring a contractor to carry out any construction, remodeling, or home improvement work, it is important to make sure that this contractor is duly qualified. Construction, remodeling, and home improvement can be an expensive undertaking, and hiring the wrong contractor can cost you hard-earned money that could have been put to better use. To ensure that you hire the right contractor for your project, you should take the following steps:

  • Contact the Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors at 1-800-544-7693 to find out the licensing requirements for the type of contractor that you wish to employ. Contractors are typically required to have a license before working on projects that cost more than $25,000. Subcontractors and home improvement contractors also have different licensing requirements, some of which are job and location-dependent
  • Get and compare multiple estimates or bids on your project. It is recommended that you get a minimum of three estimates or bids
  • Verify the license of your intended contractor online via the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance’s license search and verification portal. The state’s Board for Licensing Contractors also provides homeowners with search tips that can be used to ensure proper license verification.
  • Request references from the contractor. You should also carry out an online search of the contractor on review websites like Better Business Bureau and Google Reviews
  • Check with your local government authority for code, inspection, and permit requirements for the project and make sure that the contractor obtains all necessary permits
  • Request proof of insurance from the contractor. Contractors that have at least one employee are required to have workers’ compensation insurance. Also, make sure that the contractor is bonded per local government requirements
  • Find out who will be performing the actual work and whether any subcontractors will be involved. Make sure that all subcontractors are properly licensed, insured, and bonded
  • Get a written contract for the project and make sure that it contains details like a description of the project and the work that is to be done, an estimated timeline for the project, a payment schedule, and any applicable warranties for the work done. You should strongly consider getting an attorney to help you review this contract before you sign it
  • Never pay cash for the project and never pay the total amount of the project before work is completed. If you have to make a down payment, it should not be more than one-third of the project’s total cost

How to Search a Contractor’s License in Tennessee?

General contractors and electrical, plumbing, roofing, and HVAC subcontractors that wish to perform projects worth $25,000 or more are required to obtain a license from the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance before bidding for these projects. A similar license is also required for masonry subcontractors that wish to perform projects worth $100,000 or more. This department also issues limited licenses to certain qualified professionals that wish to perform electrical, plumbing, and HVAC work that costs less than $25,000 as well as home improvement work that costs more than $3,000 but less than $25,000.

Before finalizing hiring arrangements with a contractor, it is necessary to ensure that this individual has complied with all the licensing obligations mandated for the service that is to be provided. You can do this by utilizing the DCI’s License Search and Verification portal.

Unlicensed contracting is also considered a Class A misdemeanor in Tennessee, and professionals found guilty of violating the state’s contractor licensing law may face additional fines ranging from $50 to $1,000 per violation.

How Much Does a Contractor Charge in
Tennessee?

Tennessee contractor costs generally depend on the contractor's specialty, the scale and scope of the required job, and other factors like the cost of materials and your location. Prime contractors typically charge a percentage of the total cost of the project, which can range from 5% to 25%, while subcontractors typically charge hourly fees of $50 - $100. The specific cost estimates of some common Tennessee subcontractors are listed below:

Carpenters
$75 - $100
Demolition Contractors
$120 - $190
Electricians
$50 - $75
Exterior Finishing Contractors
$50 - $150
HVAC Contractors
$60 - $85
Landscaping Contractors
$65 - $90
Masonry Contractors
$55 - $90
Mechanical Contractors
$80 - $100
Plumbing Contractors
$60 - $85
Roofing Contractors
$65 - $150
Security System Installation/Modification Contractors
$80 - $110

When hiring a contractor, it might be prudent to also retain the services of an attorney to oversee legal aspects of the project. This usually includes performing actions like drafting and reviewing contracts and other documents related to the project. The average cost of hiring an attorney in Tennessee is $150 - $400 per hour. Note that some attorneys offer a fixed billing structure for their services, in which you are charged a flat fee for one-off actions and services. This flat fee can be as low as $50 or as high as $1,000.

What Are Home Improvement
Scams in Tennessee?

When you want to undertake a home remodeling, repair, and improvement project, there is always the risk of falling victim to a scam contractor. In Tennessee, these scams typically begin with a knock on your door, and an unsolicited contractor telling you that a part of your home, like your roof or driveway, is in bad shape and requires urgent repair. This contractor then requests full payment or a large down payment for the repair job and takes off before doing any work or after receiving a substantial payment, with the job shabbily done. This leaves the homeowner having to hire another contractor to carry out the job or rectify the poor repair job that was done by the scam contractor.

In Tennessee, certain actions by contractors are said to constitute a home improvement scam. These actions include:

  • Abandoning or willfully failing to fulfill a home improvement contract without proper justification
  • Willfully deviating from or disregarding the plans, specifications, and terms of a home improvement contract without the consent of the homeowner
  • Making false claims and substantial misrepresentations to influence, persuade, or induce a homeowner into signing a contract
  • Using false information to obtain a contractor’s license
  • Conducting home improvement business with a false name or any name that is not listed on the contractor’s license
  • Fraudulently executing or altering contracts or any other documents that are related to a home improvement transaction
  • Failing to obtain necessary permits for the project
  • Having a vested interest in any lender that is providing a mortgage loan for the home improvement project. This includes owning a controlling ownership interest in the lender, cosigning or acting as a guarantor for the loan, and receiving anything of value for referring the homeowner to the lender

You can avoid falling victim to home improvement scams in Tennessee by always getting multiple estimates from contractors, asking for references from the contractor and checking these references, and verifying the contractor’s license. You should also find out whether any subcontractors will be involved in your project, make sure that these subcontractors are duly licensed, and get an attorney to help you review any contracts and related documents before you append your signature to them.

If you suspect that you have been approached by a scam contractor, or if you have any issues with your hired contractor, then you should file a complaint with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. This agency also maintains a webpage where it publishes details of disciplinary actions taken against contractors that have been accused of violating any of the state’s contractor licensing laws. Note that complaints filed with this agency should be done not later than one year after the violation in question took place.

Professional License Search

What are Common Home Improvement Scams in Tennessee?

There are various types of home improvement scams carried out in Tennessee. The most common type of home improvement scam in the state involves a fraudulent contractor claiming that your roof requires serious repairs, and then offering to do the job at a discount. In many cases, there is really nothing wrong with your roof and the contractor is only interested in collecting a substantial upfront fee from you. Other variants include the contractor claiming to be in your neighborhood and having leftover materials from a previous job that can be used to fix up your home at a discount. Unfortunately, elderly residents of the state are often the targets of these scams, due to the belief that they have more access to disposable funds, are more trusting than younger Tennesseans, and are less likely to report a scam to authorities.

The first step to take to protect yourself and your elderly loved ones against home improvement scammers is being able to recognize the signs of these scams. Common red flags of home improvement scams in Tennessee include:

  • The contractor goes door-to-door soliciting for jobs
  • The contractor tries to rush you and does not give you enough time to carry out proper research
  • The contractor uses unmarked vehicles
  • The contractor refuses or is reluctant to provide a detailed written contract
  • The contract tries to make you pay more than one-third of the cost of the project as an upfront fee

Listed below are preventive measures that you should take when hiring a home remodeling, repair, or improvement contractor to avoid becoming the victim of a home improvement scam:

  • Verify the contractor’s license. Also, make sure that the contractor is properly insured
  • Check the contractor’s complaint and disciplinary history by contacting the Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors at (615) 741-8307 or via email
  • Be suspicious of contractors that use pressure tactics like one-day-only offers and special discounts to get you to hire them or pay a large upfront fee
  • Be wary of contractors that you cannot contact directly via phone or contractors whose vehicles and equipment are not marked with their company name and telephone number
  • Be wary of contractors that try to avoid providing a written contract or offer you multiple contracts and invoices for the same job
  • Never sign any blank contracts or a contract that has blank spaces in it. You should also strongly consider getting an attorney to properly review contracts and other related documents before you sign them
  • Never pay the full cost of a project before it has been completed. Per state law, any down payments that you make for a home improvement project should not exceed one-third of the total cost of the project
  • Never sign a completion certificate until the project has been properly completed

You can file reports and complaints concerning home improvement scams and fraudulent contractors with the state’s Department of Commerce and Insurance, as well as the Division of Consumer Affairs of the state’s Attorney General’s Office. In 2020, this office received a total of 497 complaints related to home repair and home improvement, making it the top consumer complaint category for that year. These complaints are typically referred to the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, which takes disciplinary measures against violating contractors in the state. Between January and April 2021 alone, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance issued more than $510,000 in civil penalties and awarded over $7,400 in costs against contractors that were found guilty of offenses like working without an appropriate license and exceeding the monetary limitation for down payments.

What are Disaster Scams in Tennessee?

After disasters like floods and fires occur in Tennessee, con artists and unscrupulous contractors try to take advantage of affected Tennesseans that are naturally anxious to rebuild or repair any damages to their homes and fraudulently obtain money from them. As such, it is important to take your time before commencing any home rebuilding or repair work after a disaster occurs to avoid losing your funds to a disaster scammer. The following tips are designed to help you hire the right contractor to help you rebuild or repair your home in the aftermath of a disaster:

  • Take stock of your finances and make sure that urgent needs like food, temporary shelter, and safety have been met
  • Be wary of individuals that claim to be government officials, law enforcement officers, insurance adjusters, or bank employees. Always ask for identification and confirm their identity by contacting the agencies or institutions that they claim to represent
  • Contact your insurance company, mortgage lender, and other relevant institutions to find out the financing options available to you
  • Be wary of door-to-door contractors, especially ones that offer limited-time offers and discounts
  • Never rush into any repairs, no matter how badly they may be needed
  • Get references on reputable contractors from people that you trust
  • Get at least three bids for your project
  • Make sure that the contractor you intend to hire is duly licensed to carry out the required work. You can verify Tennessee contractors’ licenses online. It is also a good idea to contact your local government authority to find out whether there are any additional licensing requirements for your locality
  • Request at least three references from your contractor. You can also find out if your contractor has any complaints or disciplinary actions on record by calling 1-800-544-7693 or (615) 532-3996
  • Ask for proof of licensing and bonding
  • Make sure that your contractor obtains all the permits required for the job. You can contact your local building department to find out what these permits are. Note that you should never obtain these permits by yourself
  • Make sure that you get a detailed written contract that contains the contractor’s name and contact details, specific requirements for the project as well as any promises made by the contractor, a timeline for the projects, and terms of payment. It is advisable to have an attorney review this contract before you sign it
  • Never pay more than one-third of the full cost of the project as an upfront fee. You should also never make cash payments
  • Ask the contractor to provide a lien waiver before starting the job
  • Keep records of the project. This should include photos of the job as it progresses, copies of contracts, and any other relevant documentation
  • Never sign a certificate of completion until you are satisfied with the work done by the contractor. You should also withhold final payment until this happens
  • Report any suspected cons or scams to the Division of Consumer Affairs of the state’s Attorney General’s Office

What are Common Legal
Work Scams in Tennessee?

Legal work scams are scams that utilize law and other judicial-related methods or means to deceptively obtain money and valuable information from unsuspecting victims. In Tennessee, these scams are mostly impostor scams that fall into two categories, which are legal impersonation scams and legal representation scams. Legal impersonation scams are typically carried out by con artists that pretend to be licensed attorneys or representatives of law firms and other legal institutions, and they are usually targeted at unsuspecting Tennesseans. On the other hand, legal representation scams are typically targeted at licensed attorneys by con artists that claim to require the attorney's services. Some common examples of these legal work scams in Tennessee are:

  • Debt collection scam: in this scam, con artists that claim to be legal representatives of debt collection agencies contact unsuspecting Tennesseans and threaten them into transferring money to them to offset an alleged outstanding debt.
  • Jury duty scam: in this scam, the con artist claims that the unsuspecting Tennessean missed a jury duty summons and has to pay a fine or risk getting arrested
  • Fake email scam: in this scam, con artists send attorneys an email that allegedly contains a link to a complaint filed against them or details of a potential case. However, once the attorney clicks on the links or attachments provided in these emails, malicious software or ransomware is installed on the attorney's computer. This ransomware takes over the computer, and the attorney will have to pay a fee to the con artist to get rid of it. In some cases, the malicious software can access sensitive information like the attorney’s bank details and credit cards numbers

To avoid falling victim to a legal work scam in Tennessee, you should take the following preventive measures:

  • Always verify the identity of any individual that claims to be an attorney through the Online Tennessee Attorney Directory
  • Hang up immediately an unknown caller threatens you. If the caller claims to be a courthouse official, you can contact the relevant Court Clerk to find out if you really missed a jury duty summons
  • Ask for written proof of the debt in question from any individual that claims to be working on behalf of a debt collection agency
  • Do not click links or download attachments in emails that come from unknown sources. Attorneys that receive emails that contain links or attachments that look like they were sent by the state’s Board of Professional Responsibility are advised to call 800-486-5714 to confirm the legitimacy of these emails
  • Never send money or give sensitive personal information to any individual that you do not know and did not initiate contact with
  • Always trust your gut
  • Report all legal work scams to the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office’s Division of Consumer Affairs. If you suspect that an attorney may be involved in these scams, then you can also file a complaint with the Supreme Court of Tennessee’s Board of Professional Responsibility

How Long Does it Take to Get a Contractor License in
Tennessee?

It takes approximately four to six weeks to obtain a contractor’s license in Tennessee. Applicants are usually required to pass relevant examinations, pay applicable fees, and submit required documents like financial statements, proof of insurance, and reference letters. Applicants are also typically required to appear before the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance’s Board for Licensing Contractors before they are issued a license. License applications can be done online, and queries concerning the licensing process can be directed to the state’s Board for Licensing Contractors via (615) 741-8307 or email.

How to Maintain Your License in Tennessee

Licensed Tennessee contractors can perform certain actions to revise, amend, or change their licenses. These include name changes, qualifying agent changes, adding classifications, changing their mode of business operation, and increasing the monetary limit on their licenses. Licensees that wish to perform any of these actions will be required to complete the relevant application form, and submit it along with any required fees and documents to the state's Board for Licensing Contractors at:

  • Board for Licensing Contractors
  • 500 James Robertson Parkway
  • Davy Crockett Tower
  • 4th Floor
  • Nashville, TN 37243-1150
  • Phone: (615) 741-8307
  • Phone: (800) 544-7693

Note that requests for license revisions, amendments, or changes must be received by the Board for Licensing Contractors no later than the last day of the month before its next public meeting. Licensees can view the dates of upcoming board public meetings online.

In addition to this, Tennessee contractors with residential building licenses that were obtained after January 1, 2009, are required to complete eight hours of board-approved residential continuing education every two years.

Similarly, Tennessee attorneys are required to complete a minimum of 15 hours of continuing legal education annually and three of these hours must be spent on approved ethics and professionalism courses. Tennessee attorneys can also perform actions like updating their contact information via their online attorney portal. Queries concerning changes to attorney licenses can be directed to the state’s Board of Professional Responsibility’s Registration Department via email. Finally, attorneys that wish to apply for inactive status may do so by completing any of the following applicable forms:

The completed forms should be submitted to:

  • Board of Professional Responsibility
  • ATTN: Registration Department
  • 10 Cadillac Drive
  • Suite 220
  • Brentwood, TN 37027-5078

How to Renew a Contractor License in
Tennessee

Tennessee contractor licenses are valid for two years and licensees are typically sent a renewal notice 90 days before the expiration date that is listed on their licenses. Renewals are due 30 days before licenses expire and the renewal process can be done online via the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance’s CORE webpage or by completing and mailing a Contractor’s License Renewal Form, along with all relevant documents and fees, to:

  • Board for Licensing Contractors
  • 500 James Robertson Parkway
  • Nashville, TN 37243

Although contractors do not have any grace period to continue operating after their licenses expire, they can still renew their expired licenses within a 12 month period. Note that this late renewal attracts an additional fee for each month that elapses. Any contractor license that has been expired for more than 12 months cannot be renewed and the contractor can only be reinstated by applying for a new license. However, Tennessee contractors have the option of temporarily retiring their licenses and placing them on inactive status instead of renewing them by submitting a Retirement of License Application Form to the Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors and paying a retirement fee. Retirements can be done annually or biennially for a maximum of seven consecutive years and licenses can be taken out of retirement any time by completing the renewal process. Queries related to Tennessee contractor license renewal or retirement can be directed to (615) 741-8307.

Likewise, active Tennessee attorneys are required to complete annual registration requirements and pay annual registration fees online via the attorney portal provided by the Tennessee Board for Professional Responsibility. Note that attorneys in inactive status are also required to file an annual registration statement with this board and pay an annual inactive fee that is due on the 1st day of their respective birth months.