March 13, 2007

CONTACT: Mary Lynn Williams 908-527-4346



Union County Freeholder Chairwoman Bette Jane Kowalski warns property owners, especially senior citizens, to beware of unregistered home improvement contractors who prey on unwary consumers. Kowalski reminds residents: there is a law to protect their rights.

"The Home Improvement Contractors Registration Act requires all businesses that do more than $500 worth of improvements to New Jersey homes must be registered with the State Division of Consumer Affairs," Kowalski said. “This is an important law that protects our citizens from misrepresentation, fraud and deception when having work done on their homes.”

The Home Improvement Contractors Registration Act took effect on December 31, 2005. It states that all home improvement contractors must register with the New Jersey State Department of Law and Public Safety, Division of Consumer Affairs each year in order to do business in New Jersey. If a contractor is not registered with the state, they will not be able to pull the permits that each municipality requires for home improvements.

Home improvement contractors include individuals and businesses that repair, renovate, modernize, install, replace, improve, restore, construct, remodel, demolish or paint residential and/or non-commercial properties. Work may include driveways, sidewalks, swimming pools, additions, landscaping, kitchens, bathrooms, garages, home security protection devices, roofs, floor covering and more.

“At this time of year, the Union County Division of Consumer Affairs receives numerous complaints from home owners dissatisfied with a contractor,” said Florence L. Peterson, Director of the Union County Division of Consumer Affairs. “It is important to remind consumers of the law, so when work is being done, no one is taken advantage of.”

Be suspicious of a contractor who asks for more than a third of the payment before work begins, demands cash payments, and will not provide a written contract or warranty, or if the contract has a P.O. box instead of a street address.

Director Peterson offers these tips to all consumers who use contractors to work on their homes:

  • Contact Consumer Affairs to make sure the business is registered.
  • Get written estimates from at least three contractors. Ask each contractor how long they have been in business, what type of insurance is carried and if subcontractors will be used on the project.
  • Ask for references. Check references and ask if the project started and ended on time, if there were any unexpected costs, if the workers showed up on time and cleaned up after they were done.
  • Do not pay for the entire job upfront. It is customary to pay in thirds: One-third the project cost when work begins, one-third half way through and the final third when all inspections are done and the work deemed satisfactory.
  • Avoid any contractor who approaches you claiming he was in the neighborhood and can give you a good deal if you agree today.

To learn more about the Home Improvement Contractors Registration Act, or to have a speaker come and discuss this topic or any other consumer affair matter with your organization please call the Division of Consumer Affairs at 908-654-9840.