NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Severe weather made its way across the Volunteer State late Monday afternoon and evening and into early Tuesday morning leaving a trail of damage in its wake. As those affected by the storms begin recovery, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) is reminding consumers of tips to aid them as they move forward.
Those affected by the storms must answer dozens of important questions in the weeks ahead: Where do I start? Who can I trust? What happens next? TDCI shares the following tips to assist Tennesseans in answering these questions.
Hiring a contractor
- 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.
- Make sure the contractor is properly licensed. Write down the license number and verify that it is legitimate by visiting verify.tn.gov.
- Get several bids and check references before committing to a contractor.
- Be wary of contractors selling repairs door-to-door and those who use high-pressure sales tactics to get you to make a rash decision.
- 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.
- Keep a record of your property damage and any repairs made to your property.
- Take photos of any repair work you believe was not done correctly.
Filing an insurance claim repair
- After a disaster, 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.
- Cooperate fully with the insurance company. Ask what documents, forms, and data you will need to file a claim. Keep notes detailing the name of the person you spoke with and the day, time and content of all conversations with insurance companies, creditors and relief agencies.
- If your home is so damaged that you cannot live there, ask your insurance company if you have coverage for additional living expenses.
- Document the disaster by taking photographs or video of any damage.
- Make the repairs necessary to prevent further damage to your property (cover broken windows, leaking roofs and damaged walls). Don’t 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 the claims adjuster with records of any improvements you made prior to the damage.
- Ask the adjuster for an itemized explanation of the claim settlement offer.
- Save all receipts, including those from the temporary repairs covered by your policy.
Be wary of price gouging in areas hit hard by damage. Look for sudden, dramatic increases in the price of essential goods such as food, fuel, and lodging right before, during, or after a natural disaster. Complaints about price gouging can be filed with the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs at tn.gov/consumer.
While many people seek to help during times of disaster, there is also an increased risk for scams and fraud. Watch out for:
- Up-front fees to help you claim services, benefits, or get loans. No government agency charges application fees.
- 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.
TDCI licenses many of the professionals who play a role in rebuilding, including contractors, home inspectors, and insurance agents. If you witness unlicensed activity or other potential violations of laws and rules involving our licensees, visit tn.gov/commerce to file a complaint.
About the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance: TDCI protects the interests of consumers while providing fair, efficient oversight and a level field of competition for a broad array of industries and professionals doing business in Tennessee. Our divisions include the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Insurance, Securities, Consumer Affairs, Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy, Regulatory Boards, Tennessee Emergency Communications Board, Tennessee Corrections Institute, and TennCare Oversight.
To check a license of a professional regulated by the Department, go to verify.tn.gov.