Inexperience May Be At Fault In House-Raising Accidents

Experts say several accidents that left a black eye on the New Jersey house raising industry in 2013 may have been a result of inexperience.

In the aftermath of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, there has been a boom in demand for house raising services, a process that lifts an existing home onto a taller foundation. It is a boom, some experts say, that has resulted in an influx of new, often out-of-state companies seeking to cash in on work they are not properly equipped to do.

“This work is not for amateurs,” said state Assemblyman John Amodeo, an Atlantic County lawmaker who recently introduced a bill designed to better regulate the industry.

Amodeo’s bill was prompted by a series of accidents in 2013. In one, a house raising in Little Egg Harbor left three workers injured and destroyed the home in question. In another, a home being raised in Atlantic Highlands slid off its jacks and into the adjacent property, damaging both homes.

The Little Egg Harbor accident was quickly put under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Such collapses are rare, but have increased in number since Hurricane Sandy, thanks in part to a large influx of contractors offering house elevation services without prior experience.

Moving an entire home is not the sort of project that should be undertaken without prior experience.

New Jersey is seeing the same influx of inexperienced contractors the Gulf coast did following Hurricane Katrina. After Katrina, it took a series of accidents to bring about new industry regulations in that area. We hope to see New Jersey follow suit in order to protect homeowners from fly-by-night contractors cashing in on the aftermath of Sandy.

Under the bill currently working its way through the New Jersey state legislature, any contractor offering services to elevate homes must be registered with the state Division of Consumer Affairs as a home elevation contractor. Contractors who want to be registered must have at least two years of field experience under the guidance of another experienced home elevation contractor.

In addition, all home lifting contractors must use a unified jacking machine to complete each project.

According to Amodeo, this common sense measure will protect residents from inexperienced NJ house raising contractors.

“Safeguards need to be put into place now if we are going to avoid shoddy work and fatal accidents,” Amodeo said. “This will increase safety for everyone, and get the job done correctly.”

Amodeo’s bill also requires that house raising contractors carry at least $1 million in commercial general liability insurance and $500,000 worth of insurance to cover the contents of their customers’ homes.

Despite the pending regulations, lawmakers expect no slowdown in the number of homes being lifted in New Jersey and New York.

With grant money still available to offset the cost of house raising, experts say the number of homes being lifted along the coast will only increase. Brian Zitani, Flood Plain Administrator in Babylon, NY, told Newsday the cost of lifting a home should be seen as an investment.

“Over the next four to five years, residents that do not elevate their homes will be priced out of these neighborhoods,” Zitani said.

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