Consumer Affairs staff has timely tips to follow when making repairs

FREEHOLD, NJ – Hurricane Irene has caused major headaches for many homeowners. Basements are flooded, roofs are damaged by strong winds and trees are down.

“You may feel pressured to hire the first contractor you speak with because your life has been turned upside down,” said Freeholder Lillian G. Burry, liaison to the Monmouth County Department of Consumer Affairs. “But don’t. The county’s Consumer Affairs staff has some great information and reminders for you to take into consideration before you move forward with your repairs.”

This is what consumers need to know before beginning a home repair project with a contractor:

  • Obtain more than cost one estimate, ask for each contractor’s references and check them out by calling 732-431-7900. Tthe Department of Consumer Affairs can provide you with a complaint history on the business you are considering hiring.    
  • You have a three-day, cooling-off period from the date your contract is signed. Your contract must be in writing and must include the work that will be completed, detailing materials, style numbers and warranty information. If you want a warranty on a contractor’s workmanship, get it in writing and make sure it states for how long the workmanship warranty is good.
  • Obtain a date or a firm time period in which the repair work will begin and will be completed. This must be included on your contract – it’s the law.
  • Obtain the appropriate permits from your town or other jurisdiction.

Remember, by law your contractor must be registered with the State of New Jersey to perform work in excess of $500. You can check a contractor’s registration status at or by calling the Monmouth County Department of Consumer Affairs at 732-431-7900.

Warning signs of unscrupulous contractors or professionals include:

  • Asking for a large payment before work can begin.
  • Asking for cash.
  • Telling you there is no need for a written contract – that a verbal agreement is enough. 
  • Not having a business address or in the case of home improvement contractors, not producing a state registration number.

Additional information about consumer affairs can be found on the county Web site at or by calling 732-431-7900. The office is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Consumer Affairs department is a law enforcement agency, created and funded by the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders. It protects against consumer fraud and dishonest and unscrupulous business practices by enforcing the state Consumer Fraud Act and other regulations.

“The county’s Consumer Affairs office enforces consumer laws and helps people whether violations are present or not,” Burry said. “In 2010 the department mediated 900 complaints and recovered more than $600,000 for consumers. This is one of the many important ways the county is able to assist residents.”

Mediation includes letters, telephone calls, e-mails, faxes and informal conferences with businesses. If a business is uncooperative and does not appear as scheduled, the department has the authority to subpoena, a function coordinated with the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office.