Consumer Protection Laws
New Jersey has some of this country’s strongest Consumer Protection Laws. We are protected by the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and the New Jersey Home Improvement Act. These laws are designed to protect residents from dishonest builders and contractors. Under these protective statutes, contractors are required to annually register with the state Division of Consumer Affairs. Those who do not, are not allowed to be issued municipal construction permits. That means a contractor who does not go through this process, is not qualified to complete home improvement work in New Jersey.
Contractors who honestly deal with consumers may have difficulties with the Acts if their contracts are not designed properly to follow each of the numerous requirements in these laws. New Home Builders and Home Improvement Contractors are particularly vulnerable if their contracts do not contain all the required notices and approved language.
For example, any home improvement work to be done in excess of $500 must be in writing and include these elements:
- The contractor’s name, address, and state registration number
- Description of the work to be done
- Total contract price to be paid
- Project start and end date
- Description of supplies to be used
- Statement of warranty or guarantee for any materials, products, labor, or services
- Description of security or mortgage interest in connection with the financing or sale of the home improvement
There are three ways in which a builder or home improvement contractor commits consumer fraud:
Before you sign the Construction Contract, your contractor needs to provide you with a copy of his general liability insurance coverage. They also need to tell you that you can cancel your signed contract for any reason before midnight on the third business day. The contractor should obtain all necessary construction permits prior to that start of any work.
Also be aware of what your contractor cannot do. They should not demand a final payment before the completion of work, or until the final municipal inspection has taken place. Be leery too of your contractor or builder making disparaging remarks or misrepresentations about a competitor.
Committing certain regulatory violations: The most common of the three, regulatory violations, occur if the contractor breaches any aspect of the Consumer Fraud Act’s written contract requirements. As a result, it is the easiest to prove and could lead to the entire contract being declared invalid (meaning that the contractor is not allowed to collect any unpaid balance). If this occurs, the contractor is often required to pay for your attorney costs and triple the cost of any damages resulting from the violation.
Affirmative misrepresentations: This is a statement that is factually untrue, made either intentionally or negligently. An example of this is if the contractor promises to use specific name brand components yet actually uses a generic brand instead. In doing so, he has committed an act of consumer fraud by an affirmative misrepresentation.
Knowing omissions: This occurs when the contractor knows, but fails to disclose a material fact. An example of this is if you advise the contractor that the project needs to be completed by a specific day. If he knows the date cannot be met, yet fails to inform you of that, he is committing an act of consumer fraud through knowing omission.
When construction disputes do arise, Mark A. Schneider, Esq. has the experience and proven track record of winning Consumer Fraud and Construction Negligence cases. Call our office to discuss your matter with an attorney who knows the construction industry.
Mark A. Schneider, Esq. has been a licensed New Home Builder in both New Jersey and Florida. He has also been licensed as a Real Estate Agent in New Jersey and Florida and has been a Mortgage Banker in New Jersey. As a result of his knowledge and experience building and selling homes representing homeowners and other builders in Court, Mark A. Schneider is able to draft contracts that both protect the home owner and the contractor.