This section includes information as follows: Complaint Reporting (Discipline or Mediation); Complaint Filing Options; Board's Review Process; Determination of Law Violations; Steps for Handling; Searching for Complaint History; Resources; Complaint Forms; Respondent Resources; and Bid Protests; and News & Updates.
Printable Complaint Reporting Forms
Online Complaint Reporting
Check for Disciplinary Action
*FYI - Complaints filed with the Board office are considered public information. To remain anonymous, do not list your contact information and send by mail (in lieu of providing fax and email information). Legal case files with their investigations are not considered open to the public.
COMPLAINT FILING OPTIONS
The Department of Commerce and Insurance offers two means to file a complaint by homeowners for residential problems. One, is to complete the "Board Complaint Form" which is used to report the contractor for an investigation of law violations; or they may complete the "Mediation Request" form to have mediation of their complaint handled by the Divison of Consumer Affairs (an alternative to court) in hopes to have their complaint satisfied filing is also available for mediation assistance. More information relative to the "Mediation Process" is available at their website and you may review the Board's information below, on cases returned or referred to the Board.
Unlicensed Activity Complaints
All Types of Complaints
The "Board Complaint
Form" may be used to report all types of complaints against licensees and those unlicensed, but required to be licensed in one of the following professions: Contractor, Home Improvement Contractor, Limited Licensed Electrician (LLE), Limited Licensed Plumber (LLP), or Prelicensed Exam Course Providers. This includes work on residential, commercial, or industrial projects; bidding violations of the law; or any law violations such as: fraud, dishonest dealing, felony convictions, misconduct, accepting payment without completing the work, requiring more than 1/3 down payment (home improvement law); etc., reporting to the Board is also available, however, it does not offers a means to attach evidence, such as copies of contracts. More information below explains the complaint process.
There are laws in place to allow the consumer to request criminal prosecution taken against a contractor or home improvement service provider for Felony Theft and Fraud whenever work for services has been paid and not completed within 90 days. See the theft law for specific instructions. The Board does not handle these requests and would require going to your local law enforcement agency, fraud unit or sheriff's office to obtain a warrant for arrest.
Complaints may be completed and sent by mail, email, online to the Contractors Board; online with Consumer Affairs for Mediation; or by fax to us at: (615) 532-2868. All information provided to the Board's office on the complaint is public information. In most cases, the respondent (contractor) is given a copy of the complaint and asked to respond to the allegations. Therefore, if submitting an "anonymous" tip, do not include your (complainant's) information. (Note: Legal files with the investigation information is NOT public information.)
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. Complaints are handled by one of the following: 1) Board - They may take disciplinary action for licensing violations by assessing civil penalties or revoking the license; or 2) Division of Consumer Affairs - Residential complaints without apparent law violations are referred for mediation through Consumer Affairs. NOTE: A mediation case case may be referred to the Board for disciplinary action to be taken if license violations are discovered, or if the contractor fails to respond to the consumer's valid problems.
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 judgements, or even refund money; they may only discipline the contractor. You would need to hire an attorney (see resources for Legal Aid) to take civil action; or you may want to consider mediation through the Division of Consumer Affairs as an alternative to court, if you are willing to work with the contractor.
In some cases, you may contact the law enforcement to file criminal charges if the contractor has violated the new theft/fraud law (took money without performing work - Public Chapter 1055 - see procedures in law) However, we encourage consumers to report complaints as a means for the Board to monitor these professions; evaluate if they are entitled to keep their license; means to offer public awareness to protect others from being harmed, including those not licensed. Often, filing a complaint may offer a means to communicate a problem and resolve the issues.
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 judgement 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 product). Their information cannot be released and not a matter of public record. The initial complaint filed with the Board office is public information, however, it does not contain legal's investigation/inspector reports or findings. Board's files consist primarily with the complaint filed by the consumer, contractor's response (if any), and additional information forwarded by these parties to our office. The "Complaintant" 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. License files are also public information with the exception of the financial statement (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 information, such as bonds. (Check local government for 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 lengthly 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 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 may want to try mediation first with the Division of Consumer Affairs before contacting 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
Whenever you report a complaint, you are considered the "Complainant" and the entity filed against, is the "Respondent". Upon receipt of your complaint documents, our legal counsel will evaluate and determine whether the Board has jurisdiction, or if mediation through Consumer Affairs Divison would best benefit the consumer. Consumers will be notified by mail, acknowledging receipt of the complaint from our office, and providing you a case complaint number. Unless handled by Consumer Affairs, you will not be contacted during the investigation process, unless our Legal staff determines an Investigator or Inspector needs to meet with you on specific allegations. In some cases, if a notarized complaint was not provided, an Investigator will be sent to obtain this from you. Therefore, if you send in a notarized statement with the original complaint, this could actually speed up the complaint process. You may supply updates to the Board during the investigation or while open with Legal, to ensure all evidence has been provided (especially, when litigation is complete). Complainants may only be 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
The Board members will not be provided any information about your case until after Legal's investigation, and it's then presented 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, will not be listed on the Legal Report. Legal presents with their recommendations as to dismiss, approval for a consent order (plea bargain), with authorization to schedule a formal hearing for disciplinary action. In some cases, an informal hearing may be scheduled with one (1) Board member, who will not be allowed to participate at the formal hearing. Hearings are conducted by the Uniform Administrative Procedures and violations is pursuant T.C.A.§ 62-6-118. If you have hired an attorney for a monetary judgment with the court, while a case is in litigation, the Board may still consider disciplinary action for license law violations; or in some cases, close, then may be re-opened to discipline for court rulings. After receiving a final judgment, you are encouraged to also report this information to the Board. More information on the types of action may be reviewed at the "Respondent Resource" below.
DETERMINATION OF LICENSE LAW VIOLATIONS
Before processing the complaint for Board review or mediation, to make this determination, the following are considered:
(Please note, we do not expect consumers to be knowledgeable of all these requirements, and this is provided as an "FYI" (for your information) source, only. Once you submit a complaint, our Legal Staff will research the applicable laws to evaluate the case. Again, all complaints are considered public information except for the Legal investigative file, and once a complaint is filed, it cannot be withdrawn.)
STEPS FOR HANDLING ( DISCIPLINARY ACTION OR MEDIATION)
Consumers hiring a licensee benefit from the mediation program with the Division of Consumer Affairs. Should our Legal section recommend transferring your reported complaint to them, you will be notified in writing from their coordinator. You also have the option to file the complaint with them directly at: Consumer Affairs.
Mediation - Any eligible residential complaint received in the Board will be transferred to the Division of Consumer Affairs for processing through Mediation. All parties must agree to participate in mediation or it may be transferred to the Board to review for law violations. Unlicensed or when the law requires a license; complaints involved in litigation; and commercial projects, are not eligible for mediation with Consumer Affairs. After the mediation process, the case may be transferred to the Board for discipline against the license to consider any license law violations and the contractor's attempt to mediate or lack of response. (If mediation is unsuccessful, your only other alternative for a resolution may be to consult with an attorney since the Board may only discipline.)
Discipline - These cases are ones where mediation is not an option through the Consumer Affairs program to remedy the problems in a complaint. 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. They may also include cases where the contractor did not respond to mediation. (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 and whether it will be transferred to Consumer Affairs; or it may remain with Legal for investigation. 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 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 *ten (10) days of receipt (from the date the contractor receives notification from the Board). A copy of the complaint will be included in the notice to the contractor. Please note, due to certified mail delivery, a typical contractor’s response may take *thirty (30) days.
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 amount of cases.)
NOTE: Legal files are not considered open to the public and confidential. Investigator and Inspection reports are not submitted to the Board office. Once the case is closed, they 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.
Board Action - The Board does not have the authority to award monetary damages or force the contractor to make repairs. They may assess discipline such as letters of warning/caution, citations, civil penalties, consent orders and in some cases, they may revoke or suspend the license through an adversarial formal hearing process with an Administrative 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, we must hold a formal hearing under the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act and the contractor will be required 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.
Mediation - CHAMP (Consumer Homeowner Accountability and Mediation Program)
The Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs, the State’s consumer protection agency within the Department of Commerce and Insurance, contains a residential construction complaint mediation service known as CHAMP (Consumer Homeowner Accountability and Mediation Program). This consumer based complaint process allows the parties to agree on making repairs or corrections or to resolve residential construction issues without administrative disciplinary hearings. CHAMP has been a benefit to those who have hired a state licensed contractor.
Licensees/Respondents failing to respond to the complaint with the CHAMP section are listed on the "Problem Contractors List" which acts as a buyer beware to others. Although, these individuals or companies may not have violated the law, they failed to respond to the consumer's issues and is a good source for checking out a contractor prior to hiring one.
SEARCHING FOR COMPLAINT HISTORY
In addition, you may want to contact the local Better Business Bureau or Federal Trade Commission to record your complaint and this provides a means for further consumer protection. More information is also available at the "Consumer Resources" section.
Felony Theft (Amended) (Eff. July 1, 2012) [pdf]
Soil Erosion Problems (TDEC)
RESPONDENT (CONTRACTOR) RESOURCES FOR COMPLAINTS
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, TCA 62-6-120 the Board may deny or hold isuing 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 of the project where the respondent may be working. Should the respondent wish to appeal the citation, they must do so, in writing, within 15 days and 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 lowering 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 referred to the Board for further action (TCA 62-6-120/ Rule 0680-1-.21). This may result for a demand for payment to be issued, or the Board may authorized a formal hearing to collect the civil penalty. Once scheduled for a formal hearing, you are 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 hearing (approximately $3,000 and up), which may include expenses for the Judge, witnesses, investigation and any other legal fees incurred by the State. Failing to appear at a hearing may result in a judgement 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. 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 ruling on a complaint case (see "Complaint" process information above), which may be: Consent Order; Informal Hearing; Summary and Suspension; or a Formal Hearing. Any member who presides over the informal hearing or has prior knowledge of the case, will not participate, (TCA 62-6-118, 125), therefore, complainants and the respondent should not contact a member of the Board.
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. Upon scheduling, you will be advised to seek an attorney to file papers 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, investigation charges and legal fees by the Department, etc., as well as the civil penalties assessed at the 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.) More Information is available at the Department of State's website at: Administrative Procedures Section.
The attorney for the Board may request a Board member to review their legal case file to determine whether more evidence is needed to move forward with a case for a consent order; formal hearing; or dismissal. Any Board member participating on the Informal Hearing may not particpate at the Formal Hearing.
Penalties may be assessed from $50.00 to $5,000.00, for each day of the continued violation. (See Rule 0680-1-19)
Unpaid penalties may be turned over to a collection agency for payment. (See TCA 62-6-120)
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 judgement.
BID PROTESTS (COMPLAINTS)
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 anoymous, it must be submitted without the complaintant's information. Anonoymous 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 futher 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 Imporovement 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 performing the work within 90 days.
CONSUMER RESOURCES: Helpful Information to Consumers