Occupational Licensing

Unlicensed Contractors Plague New Jersey. Government There to Help.

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New Jersey officials have levied $2,500 fines on 10 unscrupulous unlicensed home improvement contractors who attempted to work without a permission slip from the state.

Mercer County investigators conducted an "undercover house" sting in July, but, post-Sandy, the issue has taken on a new importance for Governor Christie, who has a message for New Jersey residents. Via Toms River News:

"In the wake of Sandy, we're working hard to help and protect New Jersey residents on all levels," said Governor Christie. "We want to make sure that those who sustained damage from the storm don't suffer further at the hands of unscrupulous contractors."

Attorney General Chiesa said, "New Jerseyans whose homes were damaged by Sandy should be on alert. Now is the time when fly-by-night, unregistered contractors will descend on storm-damaged areas, seeking to make a quick profit at the expense of homeowners. 

…The investigators booked appointments with unregistered contractors, some of whom who had commercial listings on Craigslist and other websites, in "home improvement guide" publications that were placed at convenience and grocery stores, and in local yellow pages.

During the operation's second phase, the unregistered contractors came out to the Titusville home. The unregistered contractors spoke with the undercover investigators, who posed as the home's owners. The investigators noted that, though the home had been empty for a few years and sustained minor damage, it could become beautiful again with the right work. The contractors examined the home and made estimates ranging from $2,500 to $50,000 for repairs such as painting, flooring, roofing, sheetrock work, and masonry work.

"One of the contractors showed up without a tape measure, ruler, meter, or any measuring device, and without even a notebook—and then made an estimate of $50,000, apparently based on what the investigators said they could afford," Eric T. Kanefsky, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, said. "Consumers should never hire a contractor without learning everything they can about the company's reputation and abilities, and making sure they are duly registered with the state."

No word on whether a guns-drawn raid was necessary to take down the scofflaws.