New Jersey Consumer Affairs Cites 62 Home Improvement Contractors for More Than $1 Million in Consumer Restitution and Civil Penalties in Third Quarter of 2015
NEWARK – The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has continued its crackdown on noncompliant home improvement contractors with the issuance of Notices of Violation to 62 contractors, seeking $1,046,077.76 in consumer restitution and civil penalties.
The notices, issued in the third quarter of 2015, are part of the Division's vigilant efforts to police the home improvement marketplace to protect consumers from disreputable contractors.
"Complaints about home improvement contracts are consistently among the top grievances of consumers in the state," Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. "Disreputable contractors can leave consumers with costs that escalate to the tens of thousands, as well as dangerous conditions that require additional money to repair. The Division of Consumer Affairs continues to ensure that contractors comply with the law and make restitution for shoddy or unfinished work."
Of the contractors cited during the third quarter, 23 allegedly violated New Jersey law by acting as unregistered contractors. To become registered, a contractor must disclose the physical location of the business and provide proof of a minimum of $500,000 in liability insurance, among other requirements.
All 62 contractors cited were the subject of consumer complaints. The Division has ordered them to pay a total of $803,677.76 in restitution to consumers for alleged slip-shod or uncompleted work. The Division has also ordered them to pay a total of $214,750 in civil penalties ranging from $1,500 to $5,750.
Certain contractors on the list have cooperated with the Division of Consumer Affairs by agreeing to Consent Orders for the payment of penalties and, in the case of several unregistered contractors, by applying for registration.
To date in 2015 – including these third-quarter totals – the Division has issued violation notices to a total of 182 contractors, seeking a total of $2,074,410.78 in restitution and penalties.
"Consumers need to be vigilant in making sure the home improvement contractors they hire will provide honest, quality service, as promised," said Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee. "The Division of Consumer Affairs is doing its part to discover and penalize unregistered contractors and those who cheat consumers with unfinished or substandard work."
Year after year, "Home Improvements" has been the largest complaint category that consumers have filed with the Division of Consumer Affairs. The Division received 1,253 formal consumer complaints about home improvement contractors in 2014, and has received 1162 formal complaints to date in 2015.
For home improvement projects costing more than $500, the contractor must provide the consumer with a written contract with specific, detailed information including the project's agreed-upon price; the starting and ending dates; the scope of work; the contractor's business name, address, and registration number; and other required information.
Each of the contractors 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/or consumer restitution where required, and submitting an application for registration, if not registered. Each contractor also may contest the Division's assessment of consumer restitution.
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 subsequent violations.
Tips for Consumers, When Hiring a Contractor:
Learn about any contractor before deciding to hire them. It is ideal to work with a contractor who is recommended by people you know. It also is advisable to ask the contractor for references and speak with those references about the contractor's work.
Contact the Division of Consumer Affairs to learn if the contractor is duly registered to perform home improvement work in New Jersey, and learn whether the contractor has been the subject of consumer complaints and/or legal action by the Division. You can call the Division at 800-242-5846 or use the Division's website,
Before hiring the contractor, demand a copy of the contractor's liability insurance policy and contact the insurer to learn whether the policy is valid.
Obtain a written contract. Contracts for home improvement projects costing $500 or more must be in writing. They must include the legal name, business address, and registration number of the contractor as well as a start date, completion date, description of the work to be done, and the total price.
Make sure all warranties and guarantees are in writing, and that the contract states the name brands or quality/grades of the materials to be used. Ensure that all applicable construction permits are obtained by the contractor, from the appropriate municipality.
Remember that it is customary not to pay for the entire project in advance.
Additional tips can be found in the Division's Consumer Brief on "Hiring Home Improvement Contractors," available in
English and in
Information for Home Improvement Contractors:
To advertise and perform home improvement work legally in New Jersey, contractors must register with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.
View registration materials and information.
Investigators Joseph Iasso, Jessica Lugo, Maureen Browne, and Brittany Kieran, of the Division of Consumer Affairs' Office of Consumer Protection, conducted these investigations.
Deputy Attorneys General from the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law represented the State in these actions.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an
online 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 973-504- 6200.
Follow the Division of Consumer Affairs on
Facebook , and check our online calendar of upcoming
Consumer Outreach events.