Hurricanes have caused a wide range of damage throughout the State of New Jersey, leaving very few unscathed.
While you recover and restore a sense of normalcy to your life, you may also find yourself confronted by the need to apply for insurance or government benefits.
We can help you:
Apply for insurance benefits –The insurance companies have their own attorneys to review your insurance policy and interpret it in their favor. Shouldn’t you have your own attorney to tell you if your insurance company is violating any of your rights? We can review your insurance policy, help you to file a claim, and assist you in any disputes with your insurance company.
Apply for government benefits –The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has financial assistance available for individuals and families who suffered property damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy and whose losses were not covered by insurance. Depending on the losses that you have suffered, you may be in need of temporary housing or you may need to repair or replace your home. Our attorneys can assist you in filing applications for the help that you need.
No matter which type of help that you are applying for, here is an idea of the types of materials that you should prepare:
- Copy of your homeowner’s insurance policy
- Photographs of the property damage
- A list of the items that were damaged or destroyed
- Copies of your tax returns from the past three years
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, you may be in a hurry to hire a contractor to repair your home. You should know that there are unscrupulous contractors who will try to take advantage of your desperation. New Jersey’s laws protect consumers from home improvement contractors who might take advantage of them. Here are some tips about hiring and supervising a contractor working on your home:
1. In New Jersey, home improvement contractors must be registered with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. Look for their registration numbers on their advertising, vehicles, and letterhead, and verify that their registration is current by checking the New Jersey Consumer Affairs website: http://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/LVinfo.htm
2. Besides verifying the contractor’s registration, unless a friend or family member referred you to the contractor, make sure to ask the contractor for at least two references from past customers, and make sure that you contact the references.
3. Don’t trust a contractor who arrives at your home without being called and points out areas that need to be repaired.
4. Get written estimates from at least two contractors.
Besides being registered, home improvement contractors are also required to give you a written contract if you are paying more than a total of $500.00. Besides looking carefully at the price you’re paying and the work to be done, make sure that you notice the following things:
(a) The contractor’s legal name (full name if the contractor is an individual, full business entity name id the contractor is a corporation, LLC, or partnership), business address, and registration number.(b) Home improvement contractors are required to have a minimum level of liability insurance, and they are required to attach a copy of their insurance certificate (with the insurance company’s telephone number) to the contract.(c) The contract must give you the right to cancel the contract within three business days, even if you have signed it or paid some money. The contractor should list an address and telephone number where you can send him a written cancellation letter. If you cancel within three business days after signing, you are entitled to a full refund of your money.
- Make sure that you leave a significant portion (25-40% of the price to be paid at the end of the job, so that the contractor remains motivated to finish the work quickly and to your satisfaction.
If you hired a contractor and are dissatisfied, you may want an attorney’s advice about how to proceed against the contractor. Call our office for a consultation with one of our attorneys.
Attention: Potential Home Improvement Contractors
If you are a contractor and want to do work on residential properties in New Jersey, you must be registered with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs (even if you don’t live in New Jersey or have an office in New Jersey). If you do home improvement work for pay, no matter how small, you may be inadvertently committing a crime that is punishable by a fine (up to $10,000.00) or imprisonment. You are also providing your customers with a justification for not paying you or for suing you if they are dissatisfied or are otherwise inclined to cause trouble.
Before filing your registration application, you should speak to an attorney. You may prefer to have the forms filled out by a professional, to ensure that everything is done correctly. In addition, registration involves a background check on the contractor. If you have any past crimes or official complaints by customers, an attorney may be able to persuade the Division of Consumer Affairs to register you, despite the past incidents. Home improvement contractors also must prepare written contracts for all contracts that pay more than $500.00. There are required terms that all home improvement contracts must contain. Besides those terms, the right contract prepared by our attorneys can save you time and money by minimizing the risk of disputes with customers about payment and quality of work.