Contact: Julie Willmot
(609) 278-7137

TRENTON, N.J. -As spring approaches and homeowners begin planning their seasonal home improvement projects, Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes urges homeowners to spend the extra time researching the backgrounds of potential contractors before writing a single payment check.

"Most contractors and builders are responsible businesspeople who gladly will provide proof of registration and licensure," Hughes said. "Any potential contractor who is not registered with Mercer County under the New Jersey Home Improvement Contractor law is breaking the law and is not a person with whom I'd do business. Protect yourself and your assets by first doing your own homework before you hire someone to work on your home."

In fact, the law, which too effect on Jan. 1, 2006, has reached a milestone in that more than 50,000 contractors have applied for registration, according to the state.

"The Home Improvement Contractor law provides consumers with additional protections when they contract for home repairs and renovations that can cost tens of thousands of dollars," Attorney General Anne Milgram said in a release.

Mercer County's Office of Consumer Affairs has been working closely with all municipal construction officials to ensure that no unregistered contractor receives a permit, Hughes added.

"Some unregistered contractors are attempting to skirt the law by asking the consumer to obtain the permit. If your contractor asks you to secure the work permit with your municipality, consider it a red flag," said Hughes.

Among other things, registered home improvement contractors must:

Maintain commercial general liability insurance in a minimum amount of $500,000 per occurrence;

Display the state-issued HIC registration number in their place of business, in all advertisements, in all business documents including contracts and on all commercial vehicles;

Put home improvement contracts with a purchase price exceeding $500 in writing and list all terms and conditions of the contract including: price; a description of the work to be done; materials to be used; and the dates or time period within which the work will be begun and completed. The contract must be signed by all parties; and

Provide a copy of the certificate of commercial general liability insurance with the contract

Consumers can check online to see whether a home improvement contractor is registered, by going to http://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/contractors. An online complaint form is available at: http://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/ocp/ocpform.htm.

Consumers also can file complaints or get more information on hiring contractors by calling the Mercer County Office of Consumer Affairs at (609) 989-6671.