After receiving more than 1,400 complaints over the past year, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has issued notices of violation to 68 home improvement contractors for a total of $1.3 million in fines and consumer restitution.

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

A total of 62 contractors have been ordered to pay $1,046,978 in restitution, in amounts ranging from $378 to $185,000, for allegedly not completing work that consumers had already paid for or not properly refunding deposits.

All 68 contractors have been cited with violating New Jersey's Contractor's Registration Act, for such things as not giving consumers detailed written contracts. They were assessed a total of $276,250 in civil penalties.

According to Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee, home improvement disputes are the number one consumer complaint every year in New Jersey.

"It's a huge problem," he said, "that's why we have the laws that we do in New Jersey, to protect consumers from home improvement contractors that are trying to cut corners or work without being registered."

In 2013 the division received 1,434 consumer complaints about home improvement contractors. State law requires that all individuals or businesses who solicit or perform home improvement work must be registered with Division of Consumer Affairs.

When consumers are thinking about hiring a contractor, they're advised to learn about them first - from the division and also from friends. Homeowners should get a written contract, and be certain the contractor has obtained all necessary permits from their municipality. Also, before work begins, check to make sure the contractor has a valid liability insurance policy.

State officials said residents can contact the Division of Consumer Affairs to learn if the contractor is duly registered to perform home improvement work in New Jersey, and learn if complaints have been filed against the contractor. You can reach the Division at 800-242-5846 or log onto the Division's website,