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Tennessee Consumer Affairs says Don’t Let “Splash and Dash” Scams Put a Damper on Home Improvement Projects

Home Improvements Ranked as No. 1 Complaint Category for Second Consecutive Year

Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance - TDCINashville, TN – With the spring season underway, many Tennesseans are making plans to spruce up their homes with help from lawn care services and construction companies. The Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance’s (TDCI) Division of Consumer Affairs is reminding consumers to remain savvy and make sure the individual or business you hire for these home improvement projects doesn’t leave behind incomplete work and unresolved billing issues.

Scam Alert

TDCI warns Tennesseans to be wary of “splash and dash” salespeople who often surface during spring maintenance season. These scammers use high-pressure tactics to trick homeowners into paying big bucks for shoddy workmanship, and then they vanish leaving a mess in their wake.

“Don’t let scammers put a damper on your spring home improvement plans,” said TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “Always conduct thorough research and verify a professional’s credentials before signing a contract to authorize any services, construction, or repairs.”

Home improvement scams are prominent in the Volunteer State. The home improvements category has ranked as the No. 1 complaint category received by the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs for the past two years. The category includes home warranties, as well as hiring a contractor for services to repair or improve the quality of your home. The most common complaints related to quality of work, incomplete work after receiving payment, and structural damage caused by employed individuals or businesses.

To avoid falling victim to deceptive sales tactics, TDCI reminds consumers to look out for common red flags, such as:

  • A person going door-to-door selling their service.
  • A person who offers services for a short time only, which makes consumers feel rushed and unable to research them properly.
  • 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 a third of the cost upfront.

The Division of Consumer Affairs offers Tennesseans these additional tips to help prevent home improvement rip-offs:

Avoid Lawn Care Scams

  • Shop around. Request written estimates from more than one lawn care company. Compare quotes, services, products, online customer reviews and ratings.
  • Understand pricing. Be sure to request a yard inspection and estimate. If the salesperson quotes a price for elaborate lawn service without first conducting a yard inspection, this is a red flag. Be sure you fully understand the pricing and services. Ask if you will be charged by the mow or by the week. What happens if it rains the day you expect lawn service? Does mowing include edging? Will the company mulch or bag the clippings? Are services performed by employees or subcontractors? Know exactly what you’re getting before you pay.
  • Check for prior complaints. Visit www.bbb.org to see how your local Better Business Bureau reviewed the company.
  • Scrutinize the contract. Thoroughly review the contract before signing. Does the contract automatically renew from season to season and/or year to year? Does the company offer a warranty and/or guarantee? Does the company offer a cancellation policy? Before you sign a long-term contract, request documentation of your cancellation rights in writing, in case you find the services to be unsatisfactory.

Beware Contractor Scams

Start With Research

  • Be aware that different types of work or work with a higher cost may require different licensure. A Home Improvement license is required for residential home improvement projects from more than $3,000 to less than $25,000 (total cost or contract, including materials and labor), for the following counties: Bradley County, Davidson County, Hamilton County, Haywood County, Knox County, Marion County, Robertson County, Rutherford County and Shelby County. View a complete classification outline of contractors licenses on the TDCI website.
  • Construction, alterations, improvements, or repairs with a total cost of $25,000 or more require a Contractor’s license statewide.
  • Visit verify.tn.gov to ensure that a contractor is properly licensed to work in Tennessee and has the correct license type. Check the contractor’s record with the Better Business Bureau in your area.
  • Check the complaint and disciplinary history of a contractor by contacting the Contractor’s Board by phone at 615.741.8307 or by email at contractors.home-improvement@tn.gov. Reports of closed complaints with disciplinary action can be found on our website: www.tn.gov/commerce.

Check Your List

  • Ask the contractor who will be performing the work: the contractor, his/her employee(s) or a subcontractor.
  • 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.
  • Do not pay with cash.                                                                   
  • Never sign over your insurance check.
  • Make sure the contractor is insured to cover workers’ compensation, damage and general liability insurance by requesting copies of the contractor’s insurance certificates showing a current effective date.
  • Check with your local government for codes, permits, inspections and business licenses. Make sure the contractor obtains a permit for code inspections.


  • If you file a repair request through your home warranty plan, ask for the name of the business that will provide the repair service. Check out the business by contacting your local Better Business Bureau. Ask if previous complaints have been filed against the business.
  • Read customer reviews and ratings about the business designated by the home warranty to provide repairs. Red flags include customer complaints citing incomplete service, improper
    or unsuccessful repairs, delays in response from the business, trouble contacting the business and bad customer service.
  • To file a complaint about a contractor or home improvement company with the Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors, visit us online or call 615.741.8307. To file a complaint against a repair company, visit www.tn.gov/consumer or contact your local Better Business Bureau.
  • Consumers can find a full list of tips by viewing TDCI’s Consumer Tools for Selecting a Contractor brochure.

For more consumer tips and resources, visit www.tn.gov/consumer


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