New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Cites 35 Home Improvement Contractors for $570,000 in Consumer Restitution and Penalties Due to Alleged Violations In All of 2014, the Consumer Affairs Crackdown Cited 130 Contractors for More than $2.1 Million in Restitution and Penalties
NEWARK –The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs today announced that, during the fourth quarter of 2014, it has issued Notices of Violation to 35 contractors, seeking $567,676.41 in consumer restitution and civil penalties.
During all of 2014, the Division's crackdown on noncompliant contractors has resulted in violation notices against a total of 130 contractors, seeking more than $2.1 million in consumer restitution and penalties.
"Our year-long crackdown is bringing significant amounts of restitution back to those consumers who allegedly were left with unfinished or unsatisfactory products by contractors who refused to provide refunds," Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. "Home improvement projects are among the most expensive and stressful expenses a homeowner is likely to take on. We will continue to aggressively police the home improvement marketplace – and require contractors to comply with the law – throughout the coming year as well."
The 35 contractors cited today have been directed to pay a total of $438,176.41 in restitution to consumers, in amounts ranging from $1,500 to $68,405, for allegedly failing to complete work that consumers had paid for in advance, failing to refund deposits, or other issues.
The Division is also directing the 35 contractors to pay a total of $129,500 in civil penalties. The Division cited each of the contractors for alleged violations of New Jersey's Contractor's Registration Act, such as failure to provide consumers with detailed, written contracts for home improvement projects costing more than $500. In addition, 22 of the companies were also cited for operating without being registered with the Division as home improvement contractors, as is required under State law.
"Our partnership with New Jersey's consumers is vital to the Division of Consumer Affairs' enforcement action," Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said. "Throughout this year-long crackdown, we learned about the majority of these contractors thanks to complaints filed by consumers. In 2015, we will not only continue this home improvement crackdown; we will also expand the outreach through which we inform consumers about the best ways to protect themselves."
The Division will continue to take such actions against allegedly unregistered and/or otherwise non-compliant home improvement contractors throughout the year, in order to protect New Jersey's consumers.
Year after year, "Home Improvements" has been the largest complaint category that consumers have filed with the Division of Consumer Affairs. New Jersey law requires that all individuals or businesses who solicit and/or perform home improvement work must obtain registration from the Division of Consumer Affairs. The registration application requires demonstration that the contractor has a legitimate street address and at least $500,000 in liability insurance.
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. The general practice is to pay for one-third in advance, one-third halfway through, and one-third upon completion.
Additional tips can be found in the Division's Consumer Brief on "Hiring Home Improvement Contractors," available in
English at 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, Loretta Creggett, Michelle Davis, Michael Meola, and, Waiman Yee, led by Supervising Investigator Jen Micco 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.
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Consumer Outreach events.