BBB: Tips to protect yourself from fly-by-night contractors


When disaster strikes, as it has across Western and Middle Tennessee with Saturday nights tornadic storms, unscrupulous repairmen and builders often follow the storms to take advantage of traumatized homeowners. These tips benefit those rebuilding under the stress of disaster but should be applied to anyone in need of contractor services.

If you need emergency or long term re-building, check out those door-to-door workmen offering quick fixes. They might not deliver what they promise. The Better Business Bureau offers these tips:


  • Go to and click on the Accredited Business Directory. You can also obtain estimates for necessary work from these businesses by clicking on BBB’s Request-a-Quote.
  • Call the BBB’s Regional Offices: 931-503-2210.
  • Many contractors are required to be licensed and registered with the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance. Call 615-741-8307 or go online to check whether a contractor is registered.
  • Check online with the Tennessee Secretary of State or call 615-741-2286 to verify that the company is registered to do business in Tennessee.  You can also check with your local city/county offices.

Contractor tips:

  • Try to get at three to four quotes from contractors, and insist that payments be made to the company, not an individual.
  • Never pay for the job in advance. Be wary of any contractor who demands full or half payment upfront. BBB suggests paying a third of the payment up front, a third once work is half complete, and final payment once the job is complete and has been inspected.
  • Resist high-pressure sales tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot.
  • Make sure your written contract that specifies the price, the work to be done, the amount of liability insurance coverage maintained by the contractor, and a time frame. Require a copy of their current certificate of insurance, retain a copy of the contract, and ensure all verbal promises are written on the contract.
  • Pay by credit card; you may have additional protection if there’s a problem.
  • Check that the contractor’s vehicle has signs or markings on it with the business name, phone number and license plates for Tennessee or Southern Kentucky.

About Author

Christine Anne Piesyk has been a journalist for more than 50 years. Her credits include positions as Editor in Chief, Managing Editor, Staff Writer specializing in education, leisure living, food and arts and entertainment. She was co-producer, writer and on air persona for the Entertainment Review for 25 years. Now "retired," she finds herself working on online websites and as a book editor. In her other life, she is a costume designer in her daughter's company, Gemini Dream Designs.

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