Ocean County Press Release
TOMS RIVER – Ocean County's Department of Consumer Affairs can provide assistance to homeowners looking for legitimate home repair and improvement contractors.

"Residents recently affected by the flooding from unprecedented amounts of rain that damaged homes should reach out to our Consumer Affairs Department before signing any contracts with home improvement contractors," said Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari, Chairman of the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs. "While natural disasters like storms and hurricanes bring out the best in people they also attract the most unscrupulous con artists and frauds. Unfortunately we saw that following Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

"Ocean County Consumer Affairs is here to help with information and helpful tips to walk you through the process of hiring a legitimate contractor," Vicari said. "It is our job to keep our residents safe from fly-by-night unregistered home improvement contractors that may take your money and disappear, leaving unfinished work and unsafe homes."

Vicari said there are steps consumers can take to help protect against fraud or being scammed when hiring a home improvement contractor.

For instance, before hiring a home improvement contractor call the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs to check whether the contractor is registered with the state of New Jersey and if there are any complaints filed against them. Then, get a copy of the contractor's liability insurance policy. It is advisable to call the insurer to make sure the policy is still valid.

New Jersey law requires a signed contract be given for any home improvement work over $500.

Consumers should not sign anything unless you understand and agree to all of the terms and conditions, including the fine print. Be sure to carefully review the list of materials that will be used. Never pay the full price up-front. It is common practice to pay one third of the price prior to the start, halfway through, and at the end of the work, once you have inspected the job and are satisfied with everything. Always pay with a check never with cash.

"Unexpected and unprecedented damage caused by severe weather is gut wrenching for anyone," said Ocean County Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little. "Knowing the steps to take if you should have to hire someone can help to eliminate some potential headaches.

Vicari noted that complaints against home improvement contractors are consistently the number one complaint filed in our office of Consumer Affairs annually.

"It may take a little extra time but it's imperative to do your homework prior to signing a contract," he said.

The Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs is located at 1027 Hooper Ave., Building #2, here and can be reached by calling 732-929-2105.

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