TDCI’s Tips on Selecting Contractors, Flood Claims, and Reporting Price Gouging

Friday, September 01, 2017 | 3:35pm

NASHVILLE – As Tennessee consumers begin to assess the damage from the high winds and heavy rain created by the remnants of Hurricane Harvey, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI)’s divisions offer the following guidelines, tips and general information to assist consumers in recovery.

Regulatory Boards/ Board of Licensing Contractors: Selecting A Contractor

Before hiring a contractor, remember that a contractor's license is required prior to contracting (bidding or negotiating a price) whenever the total cost of the project is $25,000 or more. Also:

  • Make sure the contractor is properly licensed. Write down the license number and verify that it is legitimate by visiting http://verify.tn.gov.
  • Get several bids. It’s best to get at least three bids and check references.
  • Get a written contract that includes the company’s name, address, and telephone number. The contract should also include an anticipated start and completion date.
  • Never pay more than one-third down and do not let the payments get ahead of the work.
  • Make sure the contractor is insured to cover workers’ compensation, damage and general liability insurance.

When hiring a contractor, avoid:

  • A person going door-to-door selling their services.
  • A person who offers services for a short time only, which makes consumers feel rushed and unable to research the contractor.
  • Unmarked trucks or vans, or a refusal or reluctance to set out complete and specific contract terms in writing.
  • Being pressured to pay for more than half of the cost upfront.

To see other tips go here or to download our brochure go here. To file a complaint about a contractor with the Board for Licensing Contractors, visit www.tn.gov/commerce/article/cont-file-a-complaint or call (615) 741-8307.

The Division of Insurance: Filing an Insurance Claim Repair

  • If your home has been damaged, call your insurance company or agent with your policy number and other relevant information as soon as possible. Cooperate fully with the insurance company, and ask what documents, forms and data you will need.
  • Take photographs/video of the damage.
  • Make the repairs necessary to prevent further damage to your property (i.e., cover broken windows, leaking roofs and damaged walls). Do not have permanent repairs made until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs.
  • Save all receipts, including those from the temporary repairs covered by your insurance policy.
  • If your home is damaged to the extent that you cannot live there, ask your insurance company if you have coverage for additional living expenses incurred while repairs are being made. Save all receipts to document these costs.

What Damage to Your Home is Covered

  • Damage caused by wind, wind-driven rain, trees and other falling objects are all covered under most standard homeowners policies. Check your policy and call your insurance agent or company if you need clarification or have specific questions.

What Damage to Your Home is Not Covered?

  • The following events are typically not covered by the standard homeowners insurance policy: Interior water damage from a storm, when there is no damage to the roof or walls of your home; damage as the result of a flood; removal of fallen trees (if the trees do not land on and damage your home); food spoilage due to a power outage; and water damage from backed-up drains or sewers. Some insurers offer endorsements (i.e., additional protection that may be purchased) for certain coverages not covered under the standard homeowner policy. Check with your agent or company to determine your needs.

If you have a dispute with your insurer about the amount or terms of the claim settlement, you can contact TDCI for assistance at (615) 741-2218 or file a complaint.

For more information about auto and home insurance options, and tips for choosing the coverage that is right for you and your family, go to www.insureUonline.org.

The Division of Consumer Affairs: Price Gouging

While most people offer assistance during times of emergency, some may want to prey upon those in need. Price gouging is unreasonably raising prices or unreasonably restricting supplies of essential goods, commodities or services in direct response to a crime, act of terrorism, war, or natural disaster, regardless of whether such event occurred in the state of Tennessee. State price-gouging laws cover essential goods such as gasoline, food, and lodging. 

  • Remember: Higher prices due to disaster do not automatically mean illegal price gouging.  Higher prices may be reasonable based upon increases in costs to the business.  This is a determination made by a court of law.
  • At this time, the Division is collecting information from consumers about possible price-gouging, such as the name of the business, location, price-listed and date. You may send us photos of a listed price with your cell phone or send in a copy of a receipt to:  consumer.affairs@tn.gov.
  • If you would like to file a complaint with this office, please go to: www.tn.gov/commerce.
  • If you would like to learn about your individual rights under the law, please contact an attorney. A “Guide to Free or Reduced-Rate Legal Services” may be found at:  www.tncourts.gov/citizens or call 1-844-435-7486.

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