Consumer Affairs staff has timely tips to follow post-Sandy

FREEHOLD, NJ – If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t get ripped off by unscrupulous contractors or scammed by a fake charity in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

“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. 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.
  • 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.

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.

Before you donate to a good cause,do a bit of investigation to make sure your money goes to help victims, hotline a scammer’s pockets.

Call the Department of Consumer Affairs to find out whether the charity is registered to solicit in New Jersey.You can reach the county office at 732-431-7900, or call the state Division of Consumer Affairs at 800-242-5846.

Learn exactly how the charity plans to use your money. Find out how much it has spent on actual programs, fundraising and management costs. Call Consumer Affairs to verify this information.

Be generous, but be cautious!

Additional information about consumer affairs can be found on the county Web site atwww.visitmonmouth.com and the state Division of Consumer Affairs can be found atwww.NJConsumerAffairs.gov

The Monmouth County 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.