Consumer Affairs staff has timely tips to follow when making repairs

FREEHOLD, NJ – Saturday night’s storms 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 one cost estimate; ask for each contractor’s references, and check them out by calling 732-431-7900. The 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, and
  • 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 www.njconsumeraffairs.gov or by calling the Monmouth County Department of Consumer Affairs at 732-431-7900. The office is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Additional information about consumer affairs can be found on the county Web site at www.visitmonmouth.com

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, and 
  • Not having a business address or, in the case of home improvement contractors, not producing a state registration number.

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.