Don’t Get Scammed On Home Improvement, Call Consumer Affairs

TOMS RIVER – Was your home damaged by the recent flooding? Maybe you’re simply looking into some home improvement projects?

If either is the case, Ocean County officials urge you to reach out to the Department of Consumer Affairs first, before signing any contracts with contractors.

“Residents recently affected by the flooding from unprecedented amounts of rain that damaged homes should reach out to our Consumer Affairs Department before signing any contracts with home improvement contractors,” said Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari, Chairman of the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs. “While natural disasters like storms and hurricanes bring out the best in people they also attract the most unscrupulous con artists and frauds. Unfortunately we saw that following Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the Jersey Shore, but it also brought about numerous incidents of fraudulent home repair contractors. Officials are reminding residents to check with the Department of Consumer Affairs first, to make sure any work you have done is legitimate.

“Ocean County Consumer Affairs is here to help with information and helpful tips to walk you through the process of hiring a legitimate contractor,” Vicari said. “It is our job to keep our residents safe from fly-by-night unregistered home improvement contractors that may take your money and disappear, leaving unfinished work and unsafe homes.”

Some steps to follow to protect yourself from these scams:

  • Call the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs to check that the contractor is registered with the state before hiring someone.
  • Check for complaints filed against a potential contractor.
  • Get a copy of the contractor’s liability insurance policy and make sure it is still valid.
  • Don’t sign anything unless you understand and agree to all of the terms and conditions, including the fine print.
  • Carefully review the list of materials that will be used.
  • Never pay the full price up-front.
  • Always pay with a check, never with cash.

This is nothing new to the Department of Consumer Affairs. Complaints against home improvement contractors rank number one in this department annually, according to Vicari.

“It may take a little extra time but it’s imperative to do your homework prior to signing a contract,” he said.

The Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs is located at 1027 Hooper Ave., Building #2, 732-929-2105.