Home Improvement Fraud:
New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act
From the Homeowner's Perspective:
Home improvement fraud is one of the most common frauds in the State of New Jersey. Homeowners can prevent much of the home improvement fraud by taking certain preventative measures such as:
- thoroughly investigate each person who provides an estimate to do the work;
- do a judgment search on the contractor;
- call all the relevant references and go to the contractor’s place of business. Many times a visit to the place of business will be extremely revealing. If the contractor is one who does not maintain a business office or maintains a business office with no staff, you should be careful.
- demand to see all relevant insurance policies including liability and appropriate registration with the State of New Jersey as a home improvement contractor;
- review the rankings and complaints with the Better Business Bureau and/or the American Arbitration Association;
- never sign any blank documents; and
- never pay for work before it is completed and get all promises in writing.
Nothing is more devastating than for a home improvement contractor to take a significant down payment and then not appear on the job. Even worse is where a home improvement contractor takes the money and does a poor job, requiring a homeowner to redo the work and hire another contractor to fix the first contractor’s mistakes.
Under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, any ascertainable loss attributable to a home contractor’s consumer fraud is tripled. The home owner is permitted to recover attorney’s fees and costs of the action. There are extensive statutory requirements and administrative code requirements with which home improvement contractors must comply. These are commonly ignored. Home contractors are also required to register with the Department of Consumer Affairs.
The following are the most important restrictions for home contractors:
- they cannot demand final payment before the job is done;
- they must have a stop and start date on each contract;
- they must have a written contract;
- they must have all change orders in writing;
- they cannot disparage the competition;
- they must give written notice, with any reasons, for going past the end date contained on the contract.
If you are a homeowner/consumer and feel that you have been wronged by a home improvement contractor, call The Rubinstein Law Firm, L.L.C. at (609) 392-7600.
PLEASE NOTE THAT WE DO CHARGE A CONSULTATION FEE FOR CONSUMER FRAUD MATTERS. ADDITIONALLY, WE CHARGE AN HOURLY RATE TO REPRESENT YOU IN A CLAIM AGAINST A CONTRACTOR. IF SUCCESSFUL IN YOUR CLAIM AGAINST A CONTRACTOR, YOU MAY BE ABLE TO HAVE YOUR ATTORNEY’S FEES REIMBURSED BY THE CONTRACTOR.
From The Contractor’s Perspective:
New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”) is a series of laws written to provide wide-ranging protection to consumers in the context of commercial transactions. It is intended to protect consumers in this state from deceptive commercial and business practices.
Unfortunately, due its broad reaching and pro-consumer slant, many home improvement contractors gets sued or countersued even when their work product and performance is exemplary due to technical violations of the CFA. Since the CFA allowes for treble damages (treble damages are three times the dollar amount of financial harm to the consumer) and attorneys’ fees to a successful consumer, it is important that business men and business women in NJ understand the impact of this law. Additionally, under a recent appellate court case, the owner of the business can be held personally liable under the CFA.
The New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) provides that:The act, use or employment by any person of any unconscionable commercial practice, deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation, or the knowing concealment, suppression or omission of any material fact with intent that others rely upon such concealment, suppression or omission, in connection with the sale or advertisement of any merchandise or real estate, or with the subsequent performance of such person whether or not any person has in fact been misled, deceived or damaged …
A deceptive practice or the failure to disclose material facts surrounding a consumer transaction falls under the term: “any unconscionable practice, deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, or misrepresentation.” The contractor will lose if the homeowner shows that the contractor engaged in any one of the forbidden six affirmative acts described above.
A vendor can also be subject to liability under the CFA if he or she intentionally conceals, suppresses or omits a material fact “in connection with the sale or advertisement of any merchandise or real estate.” The key word here is “intent”. The CFA requires that liability be based upon an omission, concealment or suppression of a known fact(s).
Under the CFA, the consumer is not required to prove that he/she relied on alleged misrepresentations or sharp dealings or other wrongful business practices. The law is complicated. You should consult with a NJ consumer fraud attorney.
If you are being sued by a homeowner/consumer or have questions about what you can and cannot do concerning a home improvement project, call The Rubinstein Law Firm, L.L.C. at (609) 392-7600.
PLEASE NOTE THAT WE DO CHARGE A CONSULTATION FEE FOR CONSUMER FRAUD MATTERS. ADDITIONALLY, WE CHARGE AN HOURLY RATE TO REPRESENT YOU IN DEFENDING AGAINST A CLAIM OR LAWSUIT.
"Mrs.Kristy Bruce Esq. IS an amazing attorney!!! She deserves many promotions and clients!! She has a heart for the people and get's the toughest jobs done. Choose HER, YOU WON'T HAVE ANY REGRET'S THAT YOU DID..FROM START TO FINISH CONCERNING YOUR CASE she will value you individually. GOD BLESS YOU Kristy Bruce and your TEAM. GO GO GO TEAM!!! & WIN."
"They have been our family attorneys for 10 years. Extremely professional. In every case they have handled for us, they have explained every step of the way. IF you looking for a law firm, look no further, they will meet your needs in every way. "