With $133,500 in Penalties Assessed to Date, New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Continues Its Enforcement Efforts on Noncompliant Home Improvement Contractors
NEWARK – With the home improvement season well underway, the State Division of Consumer Affairs last week continued its crackdown on unregistered and non-compliant home improvement contractors, assessing $66,500 in civil penalties against 25 contractors nabbed as part of the Division's new monitoring and enforcement initiative.
Since initiating its efforts on March 2, Consumer Affairs investigators have issued 30-day warnings to 130 contractors for their alleged violations of the state's Home Improvement Contractors' Registration Act. Contractors issued warnings have 30 days to come into compliance with the law or face fines up to $10,000 for a first offense. To date, a total of $133,500 in civil penalties has been assessed against 42 different contractors for failing to comply with the law.
"We will continue our monitoring and enforcement efforts through the spring and summer, which tends to be the height of the contractor season," Attorney General Paula T. Dow said. "Each year, dishonest or shoddy contractors rip off consumers for thousands of dollars. New Jersey's registration law helps consumers know they're working with a properly insured and registered business, before they sign a contract or make a down payment."
State Consumer Affairs investigators, in partnership with the Hudson County Office of Consumer Affairs, conducted the latest investigation on Friday, May 13, at the parking lots of two Hudson County home improvement stores. They issued 30-day warnings to 10 home improvement contractors who failed to display registration numbers on commercial vehicles, in violation of the Home Improvement Contractors' Registration Act and Home Improvement Contractor Regulations.
The statewide effort to bring home improvement contractors into compliance appears to be having a measurable effect. So far, of the contractors who have received 30-day warnings since the initiative began in March, 39 have come into compliance. In addition, a total of 1,277 home improvement contractors applied for new registrations during March and April – a 19 percent increase over the same period last year.
"Year after year, complaints about crooked contractors perpetually top the list of consumer concerns in New Jersey – with more than 1,400 consumer complaints last year alone. That's why the Division of Consumer Affairs and our county partners are going on the offensive," Thomas R. Calcagni, Acting Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs, said. "We're gratified this effort is having its intended effect, as shown by the number of contractors coming into compliance. Those who don't comply will pay – and we are going to continue this statewide crackdown as a strong message to all contractors operating outside the law."
Calcagni thanked the County Offices of Consumer Affairs of Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Passaic, and Somerset for their assistance in undercover enforcement actions since the initiative began in March.
Later this month, State and County Consumer Affairs investigators will conduct similar undercover operations in Mercer and Ocean counties.
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 that begins with "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.
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 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.
Advice for Home Improvement Contractors:
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, www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov, or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.