An occasional review of fascinating matters in New Jersey law – by Justin Marcus Smith

Working Cooperatively With Home Improvement Contractors

Thursday 2 September 2010 - Filed under Uncategorized

New Jersey has adopted a powerful set of legal protections for consumers, commonly known as the Consumer Fraud Act.

The Consumer Fraud Act is meant to protect the consuming public – and sometimes businesses as well – from the acts and omissions of businesses engaged in the selling of a wide range of products and services.

Home improvement work is a consumer service especially likely to cause disputes between consumers and the businesses who perform the work. In most cases, the dispute revolves around a misunderstanding or miscommunication that could have been avoided.

That is exactly why the legislature and the Office of the Attorney General require home improvement contractors to offer the consumer a formal written contract for work in excess of $500.

The Consumer Fraud Act regulations also require written contracts that display the contractor’s legal name, business address, and other sensible precautions, including a 3-day right to cancel the contract.

Some may call these requirements mere formalities or onerous meddling in private business transactions; however, if you were to spend any time in a courthouse, you would see how often failure to follow these common-sense precautions leads to disagreements ending in a costly lawsuit.

Where a home improvement contractor has behaved in a particularly irresponsible or fraudulent manner that has directly caused harm, the consumer may be entitled to “treble damages,” that is, three times the value of harm the contractor caused.

Even where a home improvement contractor has not acted in a particularly harmful manner, the contractor may still be liable for omissions, things it did not do that it knew it should have done.

Consumers and home improvement contractors alike are therefore well-advised to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the Consumer Fraud Act and to abide by the act and associated regulations.

Even where there is no substantive basis for a consumer claiming “treble damages” against a home improvement contractor, the contractor may have committed technical violations of the act. Referring to these violations may help both sides reach an amicable settlement of the dispute.

2010-09-02  »  admin

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