NASHVILLE – (RealEstateRama) — The Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance’s (TDCI) Divisions of Insurance and Consumer Affairs are offering guidelines, tips, and general information to Tennessee homeowners and residents who were affected by the July 7, 2016 flooding.
“We know Tennessee residents will lend a hand to help their friends and neighbors who were affected by Thursday’s flooding,” said TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “While most will offer assistance, some may want to prey upon those in need. We want consumers to be wary of possible price gougers and remember they can always turn to us for information as they move forward.”
Tennessee’s price gouging laws make it unlawful for individuals and businesses to charge unreasonable prices for essential goods and services including gasoline, food, ice, fuel, generators, lodging, storage space, and other necessities in direct response to a disaster regardless of whether that emergency occurred in Tennessee or elsewhere. The price gouging law makes it unlawful to charge a price that is grossly in excess of the price charged prior to the emergency.
The price gouging act is triggered when a disaster is declared by the state or by the federal government. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency declared a State of Emergency at 7:15 a.m., CDT, on July 7, 2016.
As Tennesseans begin to assess the damage the flooding caused, the Department offers the following reminders and tips to help consumers get back on their feet faster.
The Division of Consumer Affairs:
- In Tennessee, anyone doing home repair or improvement work with an estimated value of more than $25,000 must be a licensed contractor in order to do business.
- Before you hire a contractor:
Make sure the contractor is properly licensed. Write down the license number and verify that it is legitimate by visiting http://verify.tn.gov.
- 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.
- Make sure the contractor is insured to cover workers’ compensation, damage and general liability insurance.
- When hiring a contractor, avoid:
- A person going door-to-door selling their services.
- A person who offers services for a short time only, which makes consumers feel rushed and unable to research the contractor.
- 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 half of the cost upfront.
- To file a complaint about a contractor with the Board for Licensing Contractors, visit www.tn.gov/commerce/article/cont-file-a-complaint or call 800-544-7693.
The Division of Insurance:
- If your home has been damaged, call your insurance company or agent with your policy number and other relevant information as soon as possible. Cooperate fully with the insurance company, and ask what documents, forms and data you will need.
- Take photographs/video of the damage.
- Make the repairs necessary to prevent further damage to your property (i.e., cover broken windows, leaking roofs and damaged walls). Do not have permanent repairs made until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs.
- Save all receipts, including those from the temporary repairs covered by your insurance policy.
- If your home is damaged to the extent that you cannot live there, ask your insurance company if you have coverage for additional living expenses incurred while repairs are being made. Save all receipts to document these costs.
What Damage to Your Home is Covered?
Damage caused by wind, wind-driven rain, trees and other falling objects are all covered under most standard homeowners policies. Check your policy and call your insurance agent or company if you need clarification or have specific questions.
What Damage to Your Home is Not Covered?
The following events are typically not covered by the standard homeowners insurance policy: Interior water damage from a storm, when there is no damage to the roof or walls of your home; damage as the result of a flood; removal of fallen trees (if the trees do not land on and damage your home); food spoilage due to a power outage; and water damage from backed-up drains or sewers. Some insurers offer endorsements (i.e., additional protection that may be purchased) for certain coverages not covered under the standard homeowner policy. Check with your agent or company to determine your needs.
If you have a dispute with your insurer about the amount or terms of the claim settlement, you can contact TDCI for assistance. Click here to visit our website.
For more information about auto and home insurance options, and tips for choosing the coverage that is right for you and your family, go to www.insureUonline.org.
For more information about purchasing flood insurance, visit www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/