tn legal

“A sure sign that contractors can be trusted is if they tell you they’re not the best person to do a particular job and recommend someone else instead.” — Michelle Crouch, Reader’s Digest

One of the Southern words I love is fixin.’ This one word can mean:

•           Making (“Momma’s fixin’ pancakes!”),

•           Preparing (“He’s fixin’ to go to town.”),

•           Repairing (“My roof only needs fixin’ when it rains.”), or

•           Improving (“He’s fixin’ up his truck with a new bedliner.”)

Various readers may also point out the word’s veterinary application.

For homeowners who are fixin’ or fixin’ up their homes, it’s important to hire a contractor who will do a good job of repairing or remodeling for a fair price.

Q. How do I know that a contractor will do a good job for a fair price?

In Tennessee, a contractor’s license is required BEFORE bidding or offering a price for projects of $25,000 or more (including materials and labor).

Hire only a licensed contractor. Ask for the license number, and go online at to be sure the license is up-to-date.

Ask the contractor for past customer names and phone numbers, then call and ask if the contractor did a good job.

You can call the Better Business Bureau at (615) 242-4222 or the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs at (615) 741-4737 to find out if anyone has complained about the contractor.  (Disciplinary actions for multiple licensing programs are published at

Get at least two estimates in writing before deciding which contractor to hire. An estimate is how much the contractor says it will cost to do the job. Get a firm, complete price in writing before you sign a contract and don’t be rushed into signing.

Q. What if a contractor tries to enter into a contract without a license?

Tennessee law is serious. It’s a Class A misdemeanor crime for a person, firm or corporation to engage, or offer to engage, in contracting without a license as required by Tennessee law at TCA 62-6-103.

Next week: Making the contract.

Jim Hawkins is a Tennessee general practice and public interest law attorney. This column represents legal information, and is not intended to take the place of legal advice. All cases are different and need individual attention.  Consult with a private attorney of your choice to review the facts and law specific to your case. To suggest future column topics, call (615) 452-9200.

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