File a ComplaintBoard for Licensing Contractors
This section includes information as follows: Complaint Reporting; Criminal Prosecution -Felony Theft Law; Elder Abuse; Civil Action; Complaint Filing Options; Board's Review Process; Determination of Law Violations; Steps for Handling; Searching for Complaint History; Complaint Forms; Respondent Resources; Bid Protests; and News & Updates.
Filing a Complaint
We encourage consumers to report complaints as a means for the Board for Licensing Contractors to monitor professions and offer public awareness to protect others from being harmed. While the Board cannot mediate cases or award judgments, filing a complaint may offer a means to communicate a problem and resolve an issue. This includes:
- Work on residential, commercial, or industrial projects;
- Licensing law violations, such as exceeding their license limit, working out of classification, theft (accepting payment without completing the work), fraud, dishonest dealing, misconduct, requiring more than 1/3 down payment for home improvement projects, or unlawful liens.
Consumers experiencing problems with a contractor or another profession regulated by the Contractors Board should remember the following options::
- License Law Violations – File a Complaint with the Board for Licensing Contractors
- To report complaints to be reviewed by the Contractors Board to determine law violations, assess civil penalties, suspend, or revoke a license.
- Use the ONLINE COMPLAINT or
- For those without access to a computer or prefer completing a paper complaint form, contact the Contractors Board for a Complaint Form to be mailed to you by calling 615-741-8307. For those with email, you may notify us at: Contractors.Home-Improvement@tn.gov
- Before you go to the Core Complaint Login, you may want to draft your complaint summary (can copy and paste it in the complaint form field) and Include what would resolve the issues. You will be given the opportunity to attach copies of evidence to the online complaint form and should scan to have it ready to attach (contract, receipts, invoices, pictures, code inspections, text messages, emails, etc.). Having this ready in advance will prevent being “timed-out” of the system which can happen if idle for a long period.
- At the Login, you will be asked to set-up an online account or “Continue as Guest”.
- To select a Board, scroll to: “Contractors: Contractors and Ltd Licensed Plumbers” for the profession options of Contractor, Limited Licensed Plumber, Home Improvement Contractor, Limited Licensed Electrician or Pre-Licensed Exam Course Providers (see “Determination of Law Violations” below for each of these license profession requirements).
- When entering the “Respondent” (contractor), if you know their license number, it will populate the address fields automatically or you may enter the information manually. You may check our website at “License Verify” for the license number, status, limit, and classification.
- When reporting unlicensed activity or bid issues, many of these fields may not apply and enter “NA” to move to the next question.
- After entering all the information and attaching documents, you’ll be given a summary to review before hitting “Submit”.
- A confirmation by email acknowledging the complaint has been filed will be sent upon receipt of the complaint, unless filing it anonymously.
- Licensed Respondents will be sent a copy of the complaint and given 30 days to respond to the allegations. If a response is received, a copy will be forwarded to the Complainant.
- *FYI - Complaints filed with the Board office are considered public information. To remain anonymous, do not list your contact information and send by mail. Legal case files with their investigations are not considered open to the public and a legal product.
- Felony Theft Criminal Prosecution – Report to Local Law Enforcement and District Attorney
- Consumers may file criminal charges with local law enforcement whenever a contractor fails to refund money for work not performed or commits fraud for using substandard materials. The court may sentence to lesser jail time when restitution is paid.
- Elder Abuse by Financial Exploitation – Report to Local Law Enforcement and District Attorney
- Contractors can be prosecuted for using methods of deception, intimidation, undue influence, force, or threat over an elderly (age 60 or older) or vulnerable adult.
- Civil Action, Mediation or Arbitration – Requires Hiring an Attorney
- To receive a remedy or to be compensated for being wronged, or when there is a contract dispute, you will need to hire an attorney to take civil action
In Tennessee, consumers may file criminal charges against a contractor or home improvement service provider for Felony Theft and Fraud . Under the law, consumers may attempt to criminally prosecute the contractor. The felony theft law provides specific instructions to follow before filing charges. The law requires notifying the contractor in writing for a refund within 10 days before filing the charges Please remember that the Board of Licensing Contractors is not a law enforcement agency and as such does not handle the filing of criminal charges . Consumers are required to file the charges through a local law enforcement agency, fraud unit, or sheriff's department in order to obtain a warrant for arrest.
Elder Abuse by Financial Exploitation – Local Law Enforcement and District Attorney
Contractors can be prosecuted for using methods of deception, intimidation, undue influence, force, or threat over an elderly (age 60 or older) or vulnerable adult. Resources are available with the Commission on Aging and Disability at: https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/aging/documents/07_Reporting_Abuse.pdf
The Tennessee Department of Human Services Adult Protective Services unit may be contacted at 888-277-8366 to assist, as well as contacting your local law enforcement.
Civil Action or Arbitration - Hiring an Attorney
Remedy and Judgments
Civil Action, Mediation or Arbitration – Requires Hiring an Attorney
To receive a remedy or to be compensated for being wronged, or when there is a contract dispute, you will need to hire an attorney to take civil action, as the Board does not have the authority to award monetary judgments. The court has the authority to suspend or revoke a license as part of their judgment (see TCA 62-6-118). In addition, the law limits the amount of recovery from an unlicensed contractor to only documented expenses. An unlicensed contractor does not have the right to obtain a lien on your property if they were required to be licensed.
The Board may take disciplinary action for license law violations, by assessing civil penalties and taking action against the license (suspension or revocation). If you have already hired an attorney, you should consult with them before filing a complaint with the Board.
While a case is in litigation, the Board may proceed to consider disciplinary action for license law violations, or it can be held for “litigation monitoring” until the court has made a ruling. Complaints with our office are not meant to have a bearing on civil proceedings, but to evaluate if disciplinary action is warranted.
For cases where civil action has concluded, you may also file a complaint with the Board to report a court judgement for additional discipline. Please note, once a complaint has been filed with the Board and forwarded to our Legal Section for investigation, the complaint cannot be withdrawn. If a case is settled, the Board will certainly take into consideration when authorizing disciplinary action.
This information is relative to reporting a complaint with the Board for Licensing Contractors. Our Board oversees licensing of several professions: Contractors; Home Improvement (remodelers); Electricians; Plumbers; and Contractor Pre-licensing Exam Course Providers.
NOTE: While a case is open and being investigated by Legal, the Board cannot hold the issuance of a license renewal until a formal hearing is conducted. See the legal process pursuant TCA Title 4, Chapter 5 - provisions of the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act.
Jurisdiction of the Board
The Board cannot force a licensee to repair damages, complete a project, award monetary judgments, or even refund money; they may only discipline the licensee. You would need to hire an attorney (see resources for Legal Aid) to take civil action.
Remedy and Judgments
To receive a remedy or to be compensated for being wronged, you will need to hire an attorney to take civil action, as the Board does not have the authority to make judgments. They may only assess disciplinary action for license law violations under T.C.A. § 62-6-102 (you may review the law and rules from our website). A judgment by the court may also include revocation of the license if part of the consumer's charges, under T.C.A. § 62-6-118. Complaints with our office are not meant to have a bearing on civil proceedings, but to evaluate if disciplinary action is warranted by this Board made up of eight (8) contractors and one (1) public member. Therefore, if you are in litigation, the Board typically does not hold and may review to consider license law violations.
When a complaint has an "open" status, the investigation is in progress by our Legal Section and specifics of their case is not considered public information (legal work product). Their information cannot be released and not a matter of public record. The initial complaint filed with the Board office is considered a matter of public record and does not contain the attorney’s investigation findings. Board files consist primarily of the complaint filed by the consumer, contractor's response (if any), and additional information forwarded by these parties to our office. The "Complainant" will be notified once the case is closed or if they are needed as a witness at a hearing. Anyone may contact the Board to check the status of a complaint case, or to certainly check on the complaint history of a contractor. Contractor license files are also public information except for the financial statements (see TCA 62-6-124). The public may request copies of the "Certificate of Insurance" for General Liability and Workers' Compensation; and Home Improvement license files also include their financial responsibility ($10,000 surety bond or Irrevocable Letter of Credit). Check with local government for permit bonds filed for individual projects.
Filing a Complaint
We hope you will never experience problems which require you to report a complaint, however, you should be aware of your options and have information of the filing process. Filing a complaint may be a lengthy process, especially for cases which require a formal hearing, pursuant TCA 62-6-118, in order to close the case. At the prompt below, you may file an "online" complaint; however, we encourage you to mail, fax or scan and email a complaint in order to provide important documentation (copies of contracts, invoices, etc.). The online complaint system does not allow a means to send documentation to provide the most benefit in the evaluation and handling of a case. To report a complaint other than online, this may be done by printing the Online Complaint Form and mailing to the address listed on the form (please allow 5 to 7 business days for state mail delivery) or you may also fax to our office at (615) 532-2868; or email to: Contractors.Home-Improvement@TN.Gov It is helpful to specifically identify any law violations, as this is the Board's only jurisdiction on assessing discipline.
If you are needing a monetary judgment or have a contract dispute, you should contact an attorney to take civil action, since the Board has limited jurisdiction and cannot help by this means. If you have already hired an attorney, you may still report a contractor complaint to the Board. While a case is in litigation, the Board may still proceed in order to consider disciplinary action for license law violations under their authority. However, the case cannot be finalized or closed if the action is appealed and must wait for a Formal Hearing. In cases of litigation, once it is complete, you may forward the action of the court to the Board for additional discipline (see TCA 62-6-118 under the laws and rules) to be considered. Please note, once a complaint has been filed to the Board and forwarded to our Legal Section, the complaint cannot be withdrawn!
Reporting Violations, Judgments & Complaints
The one reporting the complaint is considered the "Complainant" and the contractor/licensee is the "Respondent". Upon receipt of your complaint documents, our legal counsel will evaluate and determine whether the Board has jurisdiction. Consumers will be notified by email (or regular mail if an email is not provided), acknowledging receipt of the complaint with a case complaint number. You will not be contacted during the investigation process unless our attorney determines an Investigator or Inspector needs to meet with you on specific allegations. In some cases, they may ask for a notarized statement. You may supply updates to the Board during the investigation or while open with Legal to ensure all evidence has been provided. Complainants are typically only contacted upon closure of the case (it may take over a year or more to finalize a case if it goes to a formal hearing).
Board Meeting Presentation
Complaints are presented anonymously on a Legal Report at one of the Board's regularly scheduled meetings (Board meets six (6) times, annually). The identity of the parties involved in the complaint are not identified on the Legal Report. Legal presents their findings with their recommendations as to dismiss, letter of warning/caution, civil penalty by consent order (plea bargain), or authorization to schedule a formal hearing for disciplinary action. If the license has expired, Legal may recommend to “Close and Flag” the case, however, the complaint will be reopened should the licensee reapply or attempt to renew. Formal Hearings are required to revoke a license or to assess civil penalties unless the contractor waives their right to a hearing by signing the Consent Order. Formal Hearings are conducted by the Uniform Administrative Procedures with an Administrative Law Judge. NOTE: A licensee has the right to renew their license while awaiting a Formal Hearing.
Before processing the complaint, the following is reviewed to determine license law violations:
- License – Is a license required and if so, did the Respondent hold the proper license classification, monetary limit, and active status.
- Contractor - If $25,000 or more, a “Contractor's” license is needed, and they must contract in the name as licensed. License is required when acting as a “prime” (general) contractor or “construction manager”. “Subcontractors”, those contracting directly with a contractor and not the owner, are not required to be licensed unless it is for electrical, mechanical, plumbing, HVAC, roofing, or masonry.
- Home Improvement Contractor – License required when the remodeling project in in one of the following nine (9) counties: Bradley, Davidson, Hamilton, Haywood, Knox, Marion, Robertson, Rutherford, or Shelby. In addition, whenever the cost of remodeling is more than $3,000 to $24,999. This includes room additions, driveways, swimming pools, porches, garages, fences, landscaping, roofing, painting, etc.
- Limited Licensed Electricians (LLE) and Limited Licensed Plumbers (LLP) – Covers Electrical, HVAC or Plumbing when the work is less than $25,000, and requires licenses for permits and inspections, unless in a county where local government issues their own licenses.
- Contractor Pre-license Exam Course Provider - Must be approved by the board and follow strict guidelines, outlined in the Rules and Regulations. This law is under T.C.A. 62-6-138.
- Age of Complaint - (Depends on the evidence available to prove the violation.) While the court may consider a one (1) year "implied warranty" [see T.C.A. § 47-2-314] on cosmetic items, and a statute of limitations of four (4) years on structural damage (see T.C.A. § 28-3-202), the Board will accept a complaint regardless of the time limit, and the Legal Section will determine if it is within their jurisdiction to consider for disciplinary action.
Complaints filed with the Board will be processed by our Legal section to determine from the documentation submitted if there is enough evidence of license violations to be considered for discipline. You may also use the complaint form to report unlicensed activity.
Complainant (Consumer/Person filing the Complaint) will receive an acknowledgement letter verifying receipt of the complaint. Note: Details of the case while in the Legal Section are not public information. Notification on the status will not be sent until the case is "closed". Cases are considered “open” until: 1) the contractor pays the recommended penalty; 2) appears for a Formal Hearing overseen by an Administrative Law Judge; or 3) violations were not proven and Legal recommended dismissal. NOTE: During this process, the Board cannot prevent a licensee from working; and cannot hold the license or renewal issuance until the case is closed.
Respondent (Contractor or the Individual of the Business Entity Regulated) will also be notified. Their notice is sent by certified mail with the complaint allegations, and they are directed to respond in writing within 30 days of receipt.
Legal Counsel will review all documentation after the time is up for a response from the Respondent to the allegations, and they will determine the next course of action. This may require an inspection of the job site by an inspector or investigator, if necessary to prove violations in the case. You will not be contacted unless an inspection is needed to gather more evidence to prove the license law violations, or if you are needed as a witness for a formal hearing. (Formal hearings take approximately one year or more to process, depending on the docket number of cases.)
NOTE: Legal files are not considered open to the public and are confidential. Investigator and Inspection reports are not submitted to the Board office; only to Legal. Once the case is closed, Legal will forward the findings to the Board office for the complaint file and all parties are notified.
Board Review for Discipline - Consists of cases presented anonymously to the Board at a regularly scheduled meeting (see "Calendar" for dates) to review the recommendations made by the Legal section and determine the action. The Board will not have knowledge of the contractor's or complainant's name on the case; will not see the complaint information; and decisions are based upon the findings of licensing law violations determined. The complainant and respondent should not contact a Board member.
Board Action - The Board does not have the authority to award monetary damages or force the contractor to make repairs. They may assess informal discipline such as letters of warning/caution; or formal discipline such ascitations, civil penalties, consent orders and in some cases, they may revoke or suspend the license through an adversarial formal hearing process with an Administrative Law Judge, pursuant to the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act. Anyone seeking to recover monetary remedies for injuries should consult a private attorney, as the Board has no jurisdiction over these matters. Further, the Board cannot hold the issuance of a license renewal until the respondent is given due process through the Uniform Administrative Procedures by a formal hearing.
Should Legal be able to prove violation, they may recommend discipline in the form of a civil penalty or license suspension/revocation, usually at first in the form of a consent order. If the contractor rejects the consent order, and appeals these findings, they must be given the opportunity of a Formal Hearing according to the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act and the contractor will be encouraged to be represented by their attorney, with a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. Contractors found guilty of the violations charged, may be responsible for hearing costs, in addition to any civil penalties assessed. After the time for appeals expire, the case is final, and closed by Legal. Their findings are released to the Board office for public information. Penalties not paid by the respondent may be referred to a Collection Agency or Attorney General’s office.
- Disciplinary Action – You may check the Disciplinary Action Report (DAR) monthly for action compiled by the Division of Regulatory Boards. You may also utilize the internet search by entering the name of contractor or their business name to bring up disciplinary action.
- Complaints - You may check the “Public Search” for disciplinary action of a licensed contractor.
Information relative to the complaint process may be reviewed at the above sections. For information relative to specific violations and penalties, see the Law, Rules and Regulations site. Specific consumer protection laws are available at the "Consumer Resources"; and industry related information is available at Valuable Resources.
Unlicensed Activity / Denial of License
If the complaint is for offering to engage prior to obtaining a proper license, (see TCA 62-6-120), the Board may deny or hold issuing the license for a minimum of six (6) months. However, the license may be denied for violating the law, as well as submitting false information, misconduct, dishonest dealing, felony convictions, negligence, etc. (see TCA 62-6-118).
The Executive Director may issue citations for unlicensed activity. This citation also acts as a "Cease and Desist" order. The Respondent has 15 days to appeal the citation and must do so in writing. To appeal, they should provide evidence, documentation, etc., proving they did not violate the law or offer to engage in contracting where a license is required, pursuant T.C.A. Title 62, Chapter 6. The law allows a provision to lower the citation amount in cases where the respondent obtains a license as required. However, this is subject to Board review.
Should the respondent fail to respond in writing or does not pay the citation, the case will be turned over for collection and listed on the disciplinary action report. If the case is appealed, the Board may authorize a formal hearing. The Respondent is encouraged to obtain an attorney for representation. All hearings are overseen by an Administrative Law Judge. If you are found guilty of the violation, additional costs may be assessed to cover the hearing which includes expenses for the Judge, witnesses, investigation, court reporter, and any other legal fees incurred by the State. Failing to appear at a hearing may result in a judgment by "default" (guilty). After a formal hearing, if the penalties are not paid within the time allotted by the Board, it may be turned over to a collection agency or the local District Attorney's office for prosecution.
Board Review of Complaints
The Board reviews complaints presented to them by the Legal Section at each of the six (6) regularly scheduled annual meetings. They will not have knowledge of the parties’ identity involved in the complaint therefore the respondent is not allowed to appear before the Board. At that time, they will vote on the recommendations made by the attorney based upon the information outlined in the attorney's Legal Report. Respondent will be advised of the Board's discipline ruling on a complaint case (see "Complaint" process information above), which may be: Consent Order; Suspension or Revocation; or a Formal Hearing. NOTE: Complainants and the respondent should not contact a member of the Board as all complaints are presented anonymously.
- Consent Order
Should Legal have evidence of law violations, they will present to the Board to authorize discipline, usually at first in the form of a "Consent Order" (often considered a plea bargain) and may be proposed in lieu of conducting a formal hearing. If the respondent fails to respond or agree to the consent order, the board's attorney is authorized to move forward to schedule a formal hearing under the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act.
- Formal Hearing
A formal hearing under the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, pursuant T.C.A. Title 4, Chapter 5, is scheduled in order to take disciplinary action. Upon scheduling, the respondent is advised to seek an attorney to respond to the hearing of charges. In most cases, the Board acts as the jury, however, they may waive and allow the Administrative Law Judge overseeing the hearing to also make the ruling. Those found guilty are typically responsible for hearing costs, which includes travel expenses, Judge's fees, court reporter, investigation charges and legal fees by the Department, etc., as well as the civil penalties assessed at the hearing, as outlined in Rule 0680-1-19 (estimated at $3,000 or more.)
- Informal Meeting
The respondent may request a Board member and Legal to participate in an Informal Meeting to review discipline action taken by the Board. However, Legal reserves the right to refuse this request depending on the circumstances. Any Board member participating in the Informal Meeting may not participate at the Formal Hearing.
- Civil Penalties
Penalties may be assessed from $50.00 to $5,000.00, for each day of the continued violation. (See Rule 0680-1-19)
- Collection Agency
Unpaid penalties may be turned over to a collection agency for payment. (See TCA 62-6-120)
- Attorney General/District Attorney
The Board may also refer a case to be reviewed by the Attorney General's office or local District Attorney for criminal prosecution or collection of judgment.
A contractor should contact the awarding authority to file a bid protest. However, a complaint may be reported against contractors violating the law, by completing a complaint form. All information on the complaint form is considered public record, therefore, to remain anonymous, it must be submitted without the complainant's information. Anonymous complaints may not be processed by our Legal Section unless there is sufficient evidence with facts of the allegations.
Request for bond and Insurance
If you have been wronged by a licensed contractor, to obtain a copy of the insurance information from a licensee's file, or the bond and insurance from a home improvement contractor, you may submit a "Request" to the Board. Please see "Insurance" for further information as to workers' compensation and general liability requirements. Financial statements and any guaranty agreement in the license file is considered confidential and not a matter of public record. To obtain confidential records, this would require a subpoena with a protection order.
Action by the Consumer
If a contractor has been paid and has failed to complete the work within 90 days, the consumer may have the contractor arrested by local law enforcement for felony theft in TCA-39-14-154. In addition, the law limits the amount of recovery from an unlicensed contractor to only documented expenses. An unlicensed contractor does not have the right to obtain a lien if they were required to be licensed.
Do not pay for all the work or turn over insurance checks to contractors prior to the work being completed. The Home Improvement law prohibits requiring payments of more than 1/3 of the contract price prior to the start of work. See TCA 39-14-154 for the prosecution process of contractors for felony theft; failing to refund money or failing to perform the work within 90 days of the start date.
- Lien Protection from Unlicensed Contractors (see also TCA 62-6-128)
- Felony Theft (Amended) (Eff. July 1, 2012) [pdf]
- Theft and Fraud Prosecution (Eff. July 1, 2010) [pdf]
- Online Complaint Reporting
- Check for Disciplinary Action
- Criminal Prosecution