Home improvement contractors and landscapers in Bayville, Brick and Long Branch are among 44 around New Jersey fined by the state Attorney General's office for violations of state laws.

K & C Landscaping of Bayville and Ray Alsing Landscaping of Brick were handed $4,500 fines each for operating without registering with the New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs. The Super Framing Incorporated of Long Branch was given a $4,750 penalty, also for being unregistered.

None of the three are among the four singled out by consumer affairs investigators for soliciting jobs, taking deposits, and then failing to perform work.

Attorney General Jeff Chiesa, in a statement, points out that qualified contractors hold registration numbers that begin with the characters "13VH." Contractors seeking to register must prove that they're covered by liability insurance, submit a legitimate business address, and display the registration number on contracts, ads and commercial vehicles.

Contractors charged with violations can challenge the findings, discontinue services not covered in registration guidelines, pay civil penalties and consumer restitution, and apply for state permits. Companies found in violation of the Contractors' Registration act risk civil penalites up to $10,000 for the first offense and $20,000 for each subsequent violation.

The Division of Consumer Affairs keeps a complete database of all registered home improvement companies at http://www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/LVinfo.htm. There's also a License Verification Line, 973-273-8090.

Officials urge homeowners to research any consumer complaints that may be lodged against contractors, demand a copy of the company's liability insurance coverage, and call the insuror to determine whether the policy has lapsed.

For tips about hiring a company, visit http://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/brief/improve.pdf for instructions in English; or, in Spanish, http://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/brief/improvesp.pdf.

Customers who believe they have legitimate complaints can call the Division at 1-800-242-5846 or visit the website above.

Contractors seeking to comply with state regulations can get registration material at http://www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/HIC/HIC_application.htm.