NEWARK – As part of its enforcement effort against unregistered and non-compliant home improvement contractors, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has issued Notices of Violation against 44 contractors, seeking a total of $195,000 in civil penalties, based on complaints and referrals by consumers from across New Jersey.
“Complaints about home improvement contractors were the number one complaint category the Division of Consumer Affairs received last year,” Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said. “Disreputable contractors can leave consumers with costs that escalate to tens of thousands of dollars, as well as dangerous conditions that must be repaired at additional cost. If you perform home improvement work in New Jersey, you must comply with our laws. Otherwise, you will be held accountable.”
The enforcement action comes during the height of home improvement season, as part of the division’s ongoing, intensified efforts against contractors who refuse to comply with state registration laws.
“New Jersey’s registration laws enable consumers to ensure a contractor is properly insured and can be held accountable for his or her work – information every consumer should possess while looking for a reputable and qualified professional,” Eric T. Kanefsky, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, said.
Of the 44 contractors receiving Notices of Violation, the Division is seeking a total of $3,400 in consumer restitution from four who allegedly failed to perform work after accepting deposits from consumers. The Division is referring consumer complaints against dozens more of the contractors to its Alternative Dispute Resolution Unit for arbitration.
Additionally, 40 of the contractors have failed to register with the Division of Consumer Affairs, and are cited for allegedly performing or soliciting home improvement work without being registered, in violation of the Contractors’ Registration Act.
Two more contractors were once registered, but allegedly let their registrations expire, and are being cited for performing or soliciting home improvement work with expired registration. The remaining two are registered contractors, but are being cited for allegedly failing to include required information on their contracts, and for allegedly accepting payment from consumers, then failing to perform the paid-for work.
The Contractors’ Registration Act requires home improvement contractors to register with the State and obtain a registration number that begins “13VH.” 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.
Each contractor receiving a Notice of Violation has the opportunity to contest the assertion that he or she has violated the law; or the opportunity to correct the violation by desisting from any practices in violation of the law, paying a civil penalty and consumer restitution where required, and submitting an application for registration, if not registered. Violators of the Contractors’ Registration Act are subject to civil penalties of up to $10,000 for the first violation, and up to $20,000 for second and subsequent violations.
Chiesa noted the Division is working closely with county offices of consumer affairs in a separate contractors registration initiative. Since the beginning of summer, the county offices of consumer affairs in Bergen, Burlington, Gloucester, Middlesex, Ocean and Somerset counties have issued warnings against a total of 86 contractors who allegedly failed to display registration numbers on their commercial vehicles. The contractors were given 30 days to apply for registration, properly display their registration numbers, or face further action and civil penalties.
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 commercial general liability insurance policy.
- Contact the insurer to learn whether the policy is still valid.
To advertise and 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.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey ) or 1-973-504-6200.