Shoddy repair work in and the around the home resulted in the most reported consumer complaints by New Jersey residents in 2018.

At No. 2 last year, according to the state Division of Consumer Affairs, were complaints related to motor vehicles, such as those against car dealers and mechanics.

It's required that all home improvement contractors operating in New Jersey be registered with the state. By law, a job exceeding $500 in cost should be recorded in a contract.

These rules are broken more than most people may think. And without those records on hand, a resident may have no choice but to reach out to officials who hopefully have the power to make things right.

Top 10 consumer complaints for 2018, New Jersey:

  1. Home improvement, also including HVAC and alarms
  2. Motor vehicles
  3. Professional services and occupations
  4. Phone complaints, including telemarketing and wireless phones
  5. Home repair service contracts
  6. Medical and care-related
  7. Credit
  8. Internet sales/goods
  9. Home construction, sales and furnishings
  10. Scams

The Department of Consumer Affairs in Ocean County handled nearly 3,000 complaints in 2018. At the top were complaints related to home improvement contractors and home repairs.

"The fines could be pretty hefty," said Stephen Scaturro, director of the Department of Consumer Affairs in Ocean County. "They could be up to $10,000 per violation."

Scaturro said complaints in this area have topped the list for years now, ever since 2012's Superstorm Sandy brought in unscrupulous "contractors" from all over the country, more interested in securing cash than a satisfied customer.

Scaturro advises residents to ensure a contractor is registered with the state, prior to agreeing to a contract. As a general rule of thumb, he said, one-third of the total payment should be given up front, then another third halfway through the project.

"And not another nickel until the job is done and inspected by the governing body of where the work is performed," he said.

Ocean County was one of dozens of agencies nationwide that contributed to a national survey of consumer complaints. According to the Consumer Federation of America, auto complaints topped the list nationally in 2018, followed by home improvement/construction.

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