Sandy Scammers Abusing Contractor Loophole [AUDIO]
It is a sad fact of life, but there are always people who will prey on the hardships of others. It's happening in post-Sandy New Jersey and State Sen. Jennifer Beck wants to put a stop to it.
She has introduced a bill holding all contractors doing home improvement work to the 'Contractors' Registration Act.'
"Right now home improvement contractors must register with the State of New Jersey," explains Beck. "They must be bonded and they've got to provide a written contract and they have to provide a price for that work."
For some reason, water remediation companies are not subject to the current law. These are contractors that remove damaged and water-logged material from homes and dispose of the debris. They also spray to get rid of mold or prevent it from growing. As you might expect they've gotten a lot of work in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Two companies have dozens of complaints lodged against them according to Beck.
"One company quoted a family in Oceanport $12,000 and then charged them $65,000 and these residents had no recourse," explains Beck. "The flood insurer said, 'We're not paying that. That's way more than it should have cost,' and they (the family) were stuck with the bill. They (water remediation companies) don't fall under our statute for home improvement contractors so they don't have to provide a written contract and they don't have to live up to all the provisions that are in that statute to protect the consumer."
The Monmouth County Sandy Fraud Task Force has investigated and sought to penalize companies who conducted substandard or incomplete debris removal and mold remediation; firms that charged tens of thousands of dollars above reasonable value to clean; and businesses that billed residents as much as 500 percent more than a mutually agreed upon match of a competitor's price and 500 percent more than what insurance would cover, according to Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.
"This loophole needs to be closed immediately, so county and state authorities can affirmatively assist our residents who are rebuilding in the wake of Sandy, and so our residents are protected during any recovery from future storms," says Gramiccioni. "Current law allows for a greater possibility of scams because authorities cannot penalize water remediation companies for poor business practices and violations of the Registration Act."
Under Beck's measure, the "Contractors' Registration Act" would be amended to include water-damage remediation. This Act, in part, makes contractors register with the Division of Consumer Affairs; secure liability insurance; and mandates that contracts and terms for water remediation services be certified in writing.
"New Jersey property owners suffering damages and losses due to disasters such as Superstorm Sandy are most vulnerable to be scammed and defrauded by contractors who may not even be bonafide and are just looking to take victims' money on the pretense of helping them recover," says Beck.
"We've just enacted bipartisan legislation to require state-issued identification badges for home improvement contractors. Now we need to come together immediately to pass this legislation to fully protect our residents during times of chaos and grief."