Home improvement scams top Tennessee’s 2021 list of consumer complaints

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Consumer Affairs Division of the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office says home improvement scams topped the list of complaints made to the state in 2021.

Common complaints included incomplete work after receiving payment.

For example, Jim Lance shared with WATE how he paid for several improvements to be made on his lakeside home in Jefferson County, but the work was never completed by the original home improvement contractor hired.

“This was supposed to be our forever home,” Lance said in December. “We had done extensive research. Made several trips to the area.”

In Grainger County, rats in John Kehn and Trista Vidales’ rental home created a health hazard last March.

“Rats. There are dead rats everywhere,” Kehn said. “Here is one right here. You can come over here, this is plastic, up there. You can see the feces; all the rat poop. This would have fallen down if I had not put plastic here.

“They’re living in our walls, in our basement. They’re tearing the insulation out of my walls,” Vidales said.

In 2021, the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs received 5,561 complaints – a 37% increase – compared to 2020 when 4,053 complaints were reviewed. The top complaint category included home improvements, home repairs, and home warranty issues with 787 complaints being filed.

The top three categories saw the highest year-over-year increases with home improvement scams increasing by 58%, landlord/tenant complaints increasing by 61%, and health services and product complaints increasing by 63%.

At No. 4 on the list is personal and professional services including hairstylists, massage therapists and photographers. The state says common complaints included the quality of service, charges for services not received, and problems redeeming gift certificates.

Rounding out the top five was used car sales and advertising which included issues with refunds and returns. Many complaints were about issues with refunds and returns. In addition, for the first time, imposter scams cracked the top ten Consumer Affairs list of complaints.

Complaints can be made to the state online at tn.gov/attorneygeneral.