Here’s a very quick primer on hurricane Sandy storm damage issues, some of which impact non-residential and multi-family or mixed use property owners, but all of which are relevant to single family residential property owners: In New Jersey, those who sell or make home improvements are required to be registered with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs pursuant to the Contractors’ Registration Act. Property owners should check the State’s webpage.
In addition to confirming registration, we strongly encourage that the property owner verify that the contractor is insured, that all contracts are in writing and that the property owner not pay cash up front. At a minimum, the construction contract should include the contractors’ legal name and business address, start date, completion date, description of the work to be done and the total price, but additional terms are advisable as well. For home improvement contracts, the contractors’ number must also be included. They should verify the business address of the contractor and investigate the qualifications of the contractor, including checking references and sources such as the Division of Consumer Affairs and the Better Business Bureau. Homeowners should also notify their insurance companies and lenders in advance as both notices are almost always required and a person may lose certain rights unless the notice is given.
Repair or reconstruction will require permits and in some case require land use approvals. A good place to start for permits and approvals is by contacting the municipal construction code official. We will be advancing the notion that the State waive some of the statutory and regulatory requirements for storm victims, but that remains to be seen.
The foregoing is intended just as a starting point, but gives property owners some direction as to the most critical issues for real property damage. Our firm, Stark & Stark, is putting together a free pro bono consultation opportunity for storm victims in our Wall Township, New Jersey office. Once those arrangements have been made I can post the information.