Construction Litigation: Home Improvements
Today, more people are hiring contractors to perform renovations and additions to their homes. When hiring a contractor, you must be careful about the contractor you select. You should check references, obtain at least three estimates from other qualified contractors and never pay the entire construction job upfront. Before signing a contract for a home improvement construction project, you should be mindful of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act, N.J.S.A. 56:8-1, et seq., and the Home Improvement Regulations, N.J.A.C. 13:45A-16.1 to 16.2. Some of the important Home Improvement Regulations include the following: the home improvement contract must contain start and end dates; it must adequately describe the materials and work being performed; the contractor must provide a copy of his, her or its certificate of general liability insurance; the home improvement contract must contain the total price, including the hourly rate to be charged; there must be a statement of any guarantee or warranty regarding the products, materials and labor involved; there must be a conspicuous notice advising the consumer of the right to cancel the home improvement contract within three business days after the signing the contract; and the home improvement contract must contain the signatures of both the contractor and the consumer. These categories of violations are called per se or regulatory violations under the Consumer Fraud Act. Typically, these per se violations accompany other violations under the Consumer Fraud Act classified as material misrepresentations and/or omissions by the contractor (i.e. misrepresenting to the consumer the type of material being used or failing to advise the consumer of a type of material being used).
If a contractor breaches the home improvement contract, a consumer can initiate a lawsuit and sue for compensatory damages (the actual damages), treble damages, costs and attorney fees. The reality in most situations is that this circumstance does not arise where a reputable contractor has been hired.
Generally, lawsuits against contractors include claims for negligence (i.e. improper installation), breach of contract, consumer fraud, fraud, and in many cases successor liability against a new contractor entity, where the contractor has dissolved one entity and started new entity for the sole purpose of trying to avoid liability. Consumer Fraud Act lawsuits often name as defendants both the contractor personally and the contractor’s entity.
For more information regarding Consumer Fraud Act claims against contractors, contact the Law Office of H. Benjamin Sharlin LLC for a free initial consultation.
Please be advised that this blog is for informational purposes only, is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.
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