After Sandy Fraud, NJ Considers Criminal Background Checks for Contractors
Following the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, thousands of New Jersey homeowners looked for contractors to rebuild and lift their homes. Some were lucky and got legitimate contractors. Others were stuck with shady contractors who took their money but left them high and dry with zero work done.
The state Division of Consumer Affairs received hundreds of complaints from consumers alleging construction fraud in the time following Sandy repair efforts.
In response, State Sen. Robert Singer, R-Ocean, has introduced legislation that would require home improvement and home elevation contractors in New Jersey to undergo comprehensive criminal history background checks.
"I want to make sure that when someone hires somebody to either lift their house or fix their house or do work in their house, that these people are legitimate, that they're not criminals ... wanted in other states," Singer said.
To receive a license, Singer said a person will be issued a background check conducted by the state. If they pass, they will be issued a license. If they fail, they will not.
"So if someone comes to you and says I want to do some work, you say, OK, where's your license? If they have that license, you can feel assured they are legitimate people. And if they don't have that license, you don't use them," he said.
Shady contractors know where and when to strike. Singer says when there are victims of hurricanes or natural disasters, these people prey on that, traveling from one state to another.I
Even if a contractor has a license to work on your home but you're still not sure he or she is legit, Singer says you should check online about who that person is and that company. You can also call the state or call your municipal inspection department.
He also suggests calling the Department of Community Affairs in Trenton and ask if they've had any complaints about that person.