Home improvement scams are well under way this holiday season… Know what to look for when trusting a home contractor before spending your hard earned money!
Today Your Legal Corner will discuss “How To Minimize Home Improvement Fraud While Getting Ready For The Holidays.”
It is not “what” we celebrate that matters most but rather with whom. A lot of those celebrations will be spent in the home with family and friends. For that reason, home improvements are on the minds of many.
Just as home improvement projects are widespread during the holiday season, home improvement scams are as well. Under the State’s Consumer Fraud Act, the public is protected from unlawful, unfair and deceptive business practices. This includes home improvement fraud.
In Gloucester County, if you believe a business has violated the Consumer Fraud Act click here to find out how to file a consumer complaint. Information on how to file a petition in small claims court is on the website as well.
Home Improvement Fraud
However, prevention is still the best advice when it comes to home improvement projects. Consider the following basic tips when retaining a contractor.
Get estimates from at least three contractors and review the estimates carefully before taking the lowest bid. Take into account more than price when evaluating a company. For example, how long has the contractor been in business and is the company licensed? Ask for names of past customers and yes take the time to inquire with the customers.
Make sure the contractor carries current insurance. The insurance must cover contractors, workers and visitors to the home as well as damage to your property. Finally, guard against home improvement fraud by checking with the Better Business Bureau and the Consumer Affairs Division to see if there are any outstanding complaints associated with the company you wish to hire.
After you have decided on a company, any promises made by the contractor must be in writing to be legally enforceable. Read the contract carefully. It should include the company name, address and all contact information. The contract should state with specificity what work is going to be completed, what materials are to be used, length of time to complete the work, and how the cost of the job is to be paid. Pay in stages and consider using a credit card for payments.
Payment by credit card is a preferred method as it is easier to financially settle any disputes through a credit card company, in addition to having to file a claim in court. This year the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has issued Notices of Violation to approximately 68 home improvement contractors due to alleged home improvement fraud violations under the consumer protection law. A full list of the contractors cited by the State can be found here.
Additionally, the contract should include a time and materials clause. This section will state the labor rate and material markup of any problem that may arise unexpectedly during the requested home improvement. For more information on this topic see Federal Transit Administration website at here.
To guard against home improvement fraud while getting ready for the holidays … prevention is the best advice. For Gloucester County Consumer Affairs, call 856-384-6855 for information. For unresolved consumer claims, consult with an attorney.
Till next week, God bless, keep smiling and remember who’s in Your Legal Corner. Next week, YLC will discuss “Bankruptcy Tips and Overspending During The Holidays”
Victoria M. Dalton is an Attorney Of Counsel with the dedicated Law Offices of Hoffman DiMuzio.
Call 856-845-8243 or click here to fill out a brief contact form. Your Legal Corner was created to provide educational articles about the law and is not legal advice!
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