|NEWARK – Division of Consumer Affairs investigators assigned full-time to Atlantic, Ocean and Monmouth counties since early January have contacted nearly 630 contractors either working on storm-damaged homes or seeking business at area home expo/improvement shows, to ensure they are properly registered with the Division. Division investigators continue to perform daily patrols of storm-ravaged areas where home improvement contractors are most in demand.
The investigators found that 477 of the 628 Home Improvement Contractors they checked were registered or had applied for registration. Another 27 contractors had been registered but their annual registrations were expired and needed to be renewed. The remaining 124 contractors were found to be unregistered. To advertise and perform home improvement work legally in New Jersey, contractors must register with the Division of Consumer Affairs. Registration materials are available here.
No fines or monetary penalties were assessed when the investigators found unregistered contractors working on homes damaged by Superstorm Sandy over the past two months. Instead, warnings were issued and unregistered home improvement contractors were provided information about the state’s Home Improvement Contractors’ Registration Act and told what they need to do to comply with the law. If the Division encounters these contractors again and they are still not registered, fines and penalties will be issued.
“Those unregistered contractors who do not take the opportunity we’re providing to comply with the law will face criminal charges and civil penalties,” Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said. “We recognize how important contractors are to the rebuilding process, but they must comply with the law and treat our residents with fairness and honesty in all aspects of their work.”
“The 3 Rs – recover, rebuild, restore – will be words heard throughout New Jersey this year, as we continue to undo the devastation wrought by Superstorm Sandy. I want to stress another R – registration – for roofers, masons, window installers or any other type of home improvement contractor,” said Eric T. Kanefsky, Acting Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs. “Consumers need to verify that the contractor is registered before hiring anyone and before paying any money.”
Complaints against Home Improvement Contractors were the second largest category of consumer complaints filed with the Division last year. A total of 1,528 complaints were received and even more are anticipated in 2013 because of the widespread rebuilding and repair needed following Superstorm Sandy.
State law requires registered HICs to display their registration number on commercial vehicles, in ads, on their websites and on consumer contracts. In order to become registered, a home improvement contractor must provide proof of at least $500,000 in liability insurance and disclose the physical location of the business, among other requirements.
HICs also are required to provide consumers with written contracts for work in excess of $500. The contract should include detailed information, such as start and completion dates, all work to be performed and the specific products to be used. It is customary not to pay for the entire home improvement project in advance. The general rule of thumb is to pay no more than one-third beforehand, one-third halfway through, and one-third upon completion.
Consumers can access the Division’s online database at www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/LVinfo.htm to check whether an HIC is registered. Apple device users may check the database via an app that is free for download at New Jersey Professional License Lookup App. Consumers also can call the Division toll-free at 800-242-5846 and ask whether the contractor is duly registered and if other consumers have filed complaints against the contractor.
NATIONAL CONSUMER PROTECTION WEEK (NCPW) is a coordinated campaign that encourages consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions. NCPW 2013 runs from March 3 through 9 and additional information is available at www.NCPW.gov.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of marketplace abuse, can file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.
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