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TDCI Shares Tips on Filing Insurance Claims, Home Safety, Hiring Contractors and Avoiding Scammers After August Flooding

Department Urges Consumers to Promptly File Claims, Complaints
Monday, August 23, 2021 | 04:03pm

NASHVILLE – As recovery from the tragic and unprecedented flooding in Middle Tennessee continues, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) is sharing important consumer information about filing insurance claims, hiring contractors for home repairs, home safety and avoiding scams for Tennesseans who may have sustained home or auto damage.

On Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, heavy rainfall created record-breaking flooding that claimed lives and caused damage to hundreds of homes and vehicles across Dickson, Hickman, Humphreys and Houston counties. To assist consumers’ recovery efforts, TDCI is providing tips to aid Tennesseans when filing their insurance claims, restoring power, selecting contractors and avoiding scammers who might prey on storm victims.

“On behalf of our entire department, I extend my heartfelt condolences to all of those who may have lost loved ones during the flooding and I thank the first responders and emergency personnel who rushed into harm’s way,” said TDCI Commissioner Carter Lawrence. “Tennesseans have repeatedly demonstrated their resiliency in the wake of recent tragic natural disasters, and I know that we will all work together to help our friends and neighbors recover and rebuild.”

A Middle Tennessee Flood Recovery resource page can be found online here. A help line is available at 615-338-7404 for flood survivors to request volunteer clean-up assistance.

Tennessee consumers who have questions about filing a claim or about their insurance policy can contact TDCI’s team at (615) 741-2218 or 800-342-4029. Consumers may visit our website for additional information or to file a complaint online regarding potential disputes with their insurance carrier.

Said TDCI Assistant Commissioner Bill Huddleston: “Our team is committed to ensuring that claims are being adjusted and paid appropriately and in a timely manner. Consumers who may feel as if they have been unfairly denied a claim should contact our team and immediately file a complaint.”

The following tips come from TDCI’s Insurance Division, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Division of Regulatory Boards:

Filing Insurance Claims:

  • File your claim as soon as possible. Call your insurance company or agent with your policy number and other relevant information. Your policy may require that you make the notification within a certain time frame.
  • 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.
  • Document the damages by taking photographs or video of any damage for each instance your home or property was damaged.
  • Make the temporary repairs necessary to prevent further damage to your property (cover broken windows, leaking roofs and damaged walls).
  • Never have permanent repairs made until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs. Be prepared to provide your claims adjuster with records of improvements you made prior to the damage.
  • If you feel that you are unfairly denied a claim by your insurance company, consumers should file a complaint with TDCI.
  • Never sign over your insurance check for rebuilding, do not pay with cash or pay the total charges before the work is complete.
  • Only conduct business with licensed insurance agents and building contractors. To verify an insurance license, visit the National Association of Insurance Commissioners searchable database.

Reconnecting to Electrical Power:

Before power can be restored to a flooded home, a certified electrical inspector working with the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office must conduct visual inspections of locations impacted by floodwaters to assess potential damage. If it is determined that floodwaters did not reach electrical equipment, it will be left to the local power company to determine if electrical service may be turned back on. If minor damage from floodwater is observed, the replacement of receptacles and switches will be necessary to ensure the safe operation of electrical equipment with no need for further inspection.

If the electrical inspector determines that floodwaters rose to a level that affected electrical equipment, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office advises that the property owner work with a licensed electrician to determine what components need to be replaced or repaired. In this event, a subsequent electrical inspection will be conducted before the property is re-energized. Homeowners insurance may help cover the cost of replacing appliances and other personal belongings and property that has been damaged. Questions? Contact the State Fire Marshal’s Office by phone at (615) 741-7179 or via our website.

 

Generator Safety, Avoiding Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:

With the loss of power due to flooding, many people may rely on portable fuel-powered generators which are potential sources of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas created when natural fuels burn incompletely. Breathing high levels of carbon monoxide can cause loss of consciousness or even death. Never use a gas generator inside a home, garage, carport basement, crawlspace or outside near a window, door or vent. A generator should only be used outdoors and at least 15 feet away from buildings. It is dangerous to use a gas or kerosene heater inside a home or other buildings.

Tips For Hiring Contractors:

  • Remember that 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 that costs less than $25,000, check with your 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.
  • Before selecting a professional, ensure they are properly licensed for the project through our our Public Search feature.
  • 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 upfront and make sure you have the terms of payment in writing.
  • If you are dealing with a company or person who promises to remove debris from your property, ask them to list the services they will provide in writing.
  • Ensure that your contract provides for you to make an inspection and approve the work before making the final payment.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Avoiding Severe Weather Contractor Scams:

While many people seek to help after severe weather — unfortunately, there is also an increased risk for scams and fraud. Watch out for:

  • Upfront fees to help you claim services, benefits or get loans. No federal or state government agency charges application fees for services or benefits
  • Con artists posing as government employees, insurance adjusters, law enforcement officials or bank employees. Confirm credentials by calling the agencies if necessary.
  • Organizations with names similar to government agencies or charities.                   
  • Limited time offers. Don’t be pressured to make a decision on the spot or to sign anything without having enough time to review it.
  • Fake rental listings. If the offer sounds too good to be true or the property owner can’t show you the property beforehand, it’s a bad sign.

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