Tennessee has what would be deemed your standard contractor's license, often referred to as a "general contractor's license." This is often thought of as the license needed for jobs where the total project is valued at $25,000 and up. However, for residential work where the project totals less than $25,000, there is a license called the Home Improvement license that virtually no one knows about.
A Home Improvement license is required for remodeling projects in several counties, when the cost is $3,000 to $24,999. As a practical matter, consumers prefer to hire licensed professionals, especially when it comes to home remodeling, but performing work without this license in counties that require it can land contractors in hot water with the state licensing board and in court. Tennessee has a strong Consumer Protect Act, and contractors in Tennessee are held to certain standards. Performing work without the required licensure, whether that be a contractor's license, a Home Improvement license, or specialty trade licenses, means you've violated the Tennessee Consumer Protect Act, which can have huge financial implications, including but not limited to you paying for the other side's legal fees and extensive damages.
Counties who have adopted the Home Improvement law are currently: Bradley, Davidson, Haywood, Hamilton, Knox, Marion, Robertson, Rutherford, and Shelby. Note: A license is required regardless of whether a permit is needed.
The Home Improvement license is easy to get - it's just a form with a fee, not a test. Not having it makes you vulnerable, and should you not get paid on a job, your options are extremely limited on recovering because rocking the boat can land you in worse trouble and headache than not being paid. If you were unlicensed and wanted to file a lien or send a demand for payment, we would talk through what the landscape looks like so you can make an informed decision and know what you're walking into.
Very few people know about the Tennessee Home Improvement license. Contractors perform work in neighboring counties their whole career and then take on a job in one of the nine counties requiring this license not knowing it is needed - all it takes is one disgruntled homeowner who wants to get out of a final payment, thinks the paint isn't smooth enough, says the carpet isn't stretched right, etc. to change everything for you. It's not worth it. Be proactive. Not knowing is not an excuse. Check with the state and the localities of projects you're interested in to make sure you are squared away on licensing.
Now you know...