NJ Division Of Consumer Affairs Warns Unregistered Home Improvement Contractors

PARAMUS – As part of National Consumer Protection Week activities, state and Bergen County Consumer Affairs investigators today went to a Paramus business that sells contractor supplies and issued warnings to home improvement contractors allegedly operating outside of state consumer protection laws.

Since 2006, the New Jersey Contractors’ Registration Act and Home Improvement Contractor Regulations require home improvement contractors to register with the state and obtain a registration number. To register, a home improvement contractor must provide proof of liability insurance, disclose a legitimate business address, and provide other information about the business. Contractors must display the registration number on all contracts, advertisements, and commercial vehicles as a reference for consumers.

“Homeowners depend on this long-standing law, and we will not tolerate home improvement contractors who insist on flouting it,” Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said. “Unregistered home improvement contractors should know that not only are they violating New Jersey’s consumer protection laws, they’re also committing a 4th degree crime.”

The five warnings issued today provide a 30-day period for the home improvement contractor to register without penalty or to provide proof of compliance with the law. After this period, if neither action occurs, the contractor will be issued a Notice of Violation that carries a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for a first offense.

Home improvement-related complaints were the largest category of complaints received by the Division of Consumer Affairs last year.

“Consumers need to remain vigilant for fly-by-night con men posing as home improvement contractors. With over 930 consumer complaints related to contractors in 2011, the problems and risks posed by those contractors operating outside our consumer protection laws is not going away,” said Thomas R. Calcagni, Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs. “Our State and County Consumer Affairs Investigators are committed to protecting homeowners from home improvement scams that can cost them tens of thousands of dollars.”

The State Division of Consumer Affairs and county consumer affairs offices cracked down on unregistered home improvement contractors throughout 2011. More than 60 unregistered home improvement contractors were charged as a result of the effort, which included mobile enforcement initiatives in each of the 21 counties and two undercover houses where suspected unregistered contractors were invited to give estimates for work.

Officials offered this advice for New Jersey consumers:

Before hiring a home improvement contractor, New Jersey consumers are urged to:

  • Obtain the contractor’s State registration number, which always begins “13VH.”
  • Contact the State Division of Consumer Affairs to learn whether the contractor’s registration is still valid. Call the Division’s License Verification Line at 1-973-273-8090, or check the Division’s database of all 43,000 registered home improvement contractors at http://www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/LVinfo.htm .
  • Ask the State Division of Consumer Affairs whether there are any consumer complaints filed against the contractor.
  • Demand a copy of the contractor’s liability insurance policy.
  • Contact the insurer to learn whether the policy is still valid.

To advertise or perform home improvement work legally in New Jersey, contractors must register with the State Division of Consumer Affairs. Registration materials are available at http://www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/HIC/HIC_application.htm.

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