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Lawmaker Calls For Bill Passage Connected To Sandy Recovery Work In Belmar

Assemblyman Dave Rible, R-Monmouth.
Assemblyman Dave Rible, R-Monmouth.

The sentencing of an unregistered home improvement contractor illustrates the need to enact legislation toughening existing law regulating contractors, a Monmouth County Assemblyman said Wednesday.

Assemblyman Dave Rible, R-Monmouth, has sponsored a bill that would tighten up the existing regulations of home improvement contractors, citing the sentencing of a Seaside man who tried to get contracting work in the wake of Superstorm Sandy without first registering with the state.

Rible says the bill – A-1548 -- would update the “Contractors’ Registration Act” to makes it easier for consumers to recoup money when a contractor performs shoddy work by requiring contractors to maintain a surety bond of $25,000. Failure to meet the terms of a contract would be a violation of the Consumer Fraud Act, Rible says.

"After Sandy we saw a tremendous influx in the number of contractors in our area offering to perform construction and related services for individuals who sustained damage to their property," said Rible. "Unfortunately, many of these so-called contractors used this tragedy to scam people whose lives were already turned upside down by Sandy.” 

Rible said the sentencing of Victor McGookin, 53, of Seaside Park, emphasizes the need to pass the bill.

McGookin last week was sentenced to one year probation term on a single count of fourth-degree failure to register with the state Division of Consumer Affairs. McGookin pleaded guilty in November, admitting he attempted to transact business as a contractor in Highlands and Belmar in the wake of Superstorm Sandy without first registering as with the state. 

“One of the lessons of Superstorm Sandy is that our laws need to be updated to ensure that the victims of disaster are not victimized again by unscrupulous contractors,” Rible said.  “I applaud Prosecutor Gramiccioni for targeting fraudulent contractors and I am hopeful that we can enact this measure to make it easier to prosecute those who prey on Sandy victims.”

Under the bill, contractors would be required to register with the state every two years, instead of every year as required by current law.  Those who perform home improvement work for free are exempt, while those who do less than $500 worth of work are exempt from posting the bond, according to Rible. 

The bill has been referred to the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee.

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