NJ goes to bat for consumers bilked by home remodelers

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New Jersey is cracking down on nearly three dozen home improvement contractors who appear to have skirted state law.

The 35 contractors are accused of failing to register with the state, not completing work customers paid for in advance, or failing to refund deposits.

The state is seeking restitution of $438,000 for consumers as well as $129,000 in civil penalties, said Steve Lee of the state Division of Consumer Affairs.

“If a consumer is trying to bring their own action, it takes time,” Lee said Monday. “It takes money to hire an attorney and to bring an action in court, and, often times, we’re successful in winning restitution for consumers without them having to invest any more of their own money into it.”

Lee advises consumers to make sure a contractor is registered to perform home improvement work and get a written contract describing the work to be done and the total price. Don’t pay for the entire project in advance, he emphasized.

“Home improvement contractors are the No. 1 complaint that the division usually receives year after year,” Lee said. “And what we’re trying to do is widely publicize our actions against contractors that fail to register or fail to complete work that they promise or fail to refund deposits or other issues.”

Most contractors cited by the state change their business practices and refund money for unfinished or unsatisfactory work, Lee said.

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