Investigators from the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs plan to begin fining unregistered home improvement contractors. The Division contacted nearly 630 contractors working on storm damaged homes in the wake of Storm Sandy and found that 125 unregistered contractors. The Division advised the contractors that they needed to register with the Division in order to work legally in the State. No fines or monetary penalties have been assessed so far, but the Division will issue fines if it encounters these contractors again and finds they are still not registered.
Complaints against home improvement contractors was the second largest category for consumer complaints last year, with a total of 1,528 complaints. Even more are anticipated this year due to Storm Sandy. State law requires home improvement contractors to display their registration number on commercial vehicles, ads, websites, and consumer contracts. Home improvement contractors must also provide proof of at least $500,000.00 in liability insurance and disclose the physical location of their business. All contracts for work in excess of $500.00 must be in writing and include detailed information such as the start and completion date of all work, a description of all work to be performed, and identify the specific products to be used. It is customary not to pay the entire home improvement project in advance. A general rule of thumb is to pay no more than 1/3 beforehand, 1/3 halfway through and 1/3 upon completion. Consumers can access the Division’s online database to check whether a home improvements contractor is registered. The New Jersey Professional License Lookup App is also available for Apple devices. Consumers can also call the Division toll free at 800-242-5846 and ask whether the contractor is registered and if other consumers have filed complaints against the contractor.