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Home Contractors

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Who Is A Home Improvement Contractor

Home improvement contractors are individuals and companies that are involved in repairing, renovating, modernizing, painting, installing, replacing, improving, constructing, restoring, remodeling, moving, or demolishing residential or non-commercial properties.

Home improvement contractors include those who work on residential driveways, sidewalks, swimming pools, terraces, patios, additions, landscaping, fences, porches, windows, doors, cabinets, kitchens, bathrooms, garages, finished basements, basement waterproofing, fire protection devices, security protection devices, central heating and air conditioning equipment, water softeners, heaters, and purifiers, solar heating or water systems, insulation installation, roofing and siding, wall-to-wall carpeting or attached or inlaid floor coverings, and more.

Each year, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs receives thousands of complaints from consumers who hire contractors to do costly repair projects and who are less than satisfied with the results.

Consumers complain about shoddy workmanship, missed deadlines and also about the contractor’s failure to complete the work or to start the project at all.

Hiring Home Improvement Contractors

Each year, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs receives thousands of complaints from consumers who hire contractors to do costly repair projects and who are less than satisfied with the results. Consumers complain about shoddy workmanship, missed deadlines and also about the contractor’s failure to complete the work or to start the project at all.

The New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act is designed to protect you from misrepresentation, fraud and deception in consumer transactions, including contracts for home improvement work. In addition, the Contractors’ Registration Act requires home improvement contractors to register with the State.

Home improvement contractors had to initially register with the Division of Consumer Affairs by December 31, 2005, and must register annually thereafter, unless specifically exempted.

Home improvement contractors who are not registered with Consumer Affairs will not be issued municipal construction permits and will not be permitted to perform home improvement work in New Jersey.

More information about the new law may be found on the Division’s Web Site shown below.

Note: Registration with the State does not constitute an endorsement of or approval for the home improvement contractor.

Know The Law

Obtain a written contract. Contracts for home improvement projects costing $500 or more must be written and must include the legal name and business address of the contractor as well as a start date, a completion date, a description of the work to be done, and the total price. The contract must also include the contractor’s registration number.

Make sure all warranties and guarantees are in writing, and that the contract states name brands or quality/grades of materials to be used.

Signed contracts may be canceled by a consumer for any reason before midnight of the third business day after you receive a copy of the contract. Put the cancellation in writing and either personally deliver it to the contractor or send it registered or certified mail, return receipt requested. A photocopy of your cancellation should also be sent via regular first-class mail.

Ensure that all applicable construction permits are obtained from the local municipality. Either the owner or a contractor acting as the owner’s agent may obtain a building permit.

If an electrician or plumber is doing the work, the municipal permit must be signed and sealed by the New Jersey licensed electrical contractor or licensed master plumber.

If the homeowner has hired an architect to draw up the plans, the licensed architect must sign off on them. Determine from the municipality what inspections are needed and when they must be performed.

Final inspections must be completed BEFORE final payment is made to the contractor. For information on inspections, see the notice printed in large type on the back of the construction permit.

Hiring Other Licensed Professionals

Persons or companies licensed by the State, such as plumbers, electrical contractors, and architects, are not required to register as home improvement contractors if they are acting within the scope of their profession. Before hiring any of the professionals listed below, check the Licensee Search link on the Division’s Web site or call the appropriate licensing board to determine the person doing the work is licensed to do so and that his/her license is active and in good standing.

Licensing Boards

Architects 973-504-6385
Burglar Alarm Installers 973-504-6245
Electrical Contractors 973-504-6410
Engineers 973-504-6460
Fire Alarm Installers 973-504-6245
Land Surveyors 973-504-6460
Landscape Architects 973-504-6385
Locksmiths 973-504-6245
Plumbers 973-504-6420

Home Repair Complaints

If you have a problem with your home improvement project, first give the contractor an opportunity to resolve the matter directly. If you are not satisfied with the results, you may:

Call the Ocean County Consumer Affairs office at 732-929-2105 for a complaint form.

Tips for Consumers

  • Contact your local Consumer Affairs Department to see if consumers have filed any complaints against the contractor, and to ensure the contractor is registered.
  • Get written estimates from at least three contractors. Ask each contractor how long they have been in business, if they have liability insurance (as required by law), and whether they will be using subcontractors on the project.
  • Contact the references your contractor gives you. Ask them whether the job was completed on time, whether there were any unexpected costs, whether the workers showed up on time and cleaned up when they finished, and whether they would use the contractor again.
  • Ask your contractor about his or her professional affliations and confirm the information with those organizations.
  • Investigate financing options for your project. Shop for credit and be sure you understand the annual percentage rate you will have to pay.
  • Do not pay for the entire job up front. The customary arrangement is one-third in advance, one-third halfway through the job and one-third upon completion. Do not pay with cash.

Warning Signs

Avoid transient home repair contractors. If you hire a contractor, make sure you get a registration number, name, street address, phone number, license plate number and vehicle description. If a problem does occur, this information will be helpful to law enforcement agencies.

Look for red flags. Be wary if the contractor:

  • asks for more than a third of the total payment before work can begin.
  • demands cash.
  • tells you there is no need for a written contract. (Written contracts are required for projects costing $500 or more. We recommend you get a written contract for all projects.)
  • only has a P.O. Box as his/her business address.
  • does not have a Division of Consumer Affairs registration number unless he/she is exempt from registration requirements.
  • approaches you (when you haven’t sought him out) claiming he was just in the neighborhood and can give you a good deal.