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The New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act

New Jersey Statute Helps Consumers Fight Home Improvement Fraud

The New Jersey Consumer Fraud ActThere are few material things more exciting that a home improvement project. Adding a room or remodeling a kitchen or bathroom can go a long way toward enhancing your quality of life. But you need to be careful—there are, unfortunately, a number of “home improvement” contractors who promise one thing but deliver far less. Worse yet, a contractor may take advance payment and then disappear.

Fortunately for consumers in New Jersey, the state legislature enacted the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (NJCFA). The NJCFA includes extensive regulations that address the business and conduct of home improvement contractors. For example, the NJCFA requires agreements regarding any project where the contractor will charge more than $500 to be in writing and signed by both the homeowner and the contractor. That writing requirement also applies to change orders or modifications of an existing contract. The NJCFA also mandates that the home improvement contractor provide detailed information in the agreement:

  • The legal name and address of the home improvement contractor
  • A description of all work to be done and materials to be used
  • The total cost of the work, including any finance charges
  • A statement of when the work will commence and when it will be completed
  • The contractor’s state registration number
  • Any guarantee or warranty offered by the contractor

The contractor also must provide the homeowner with the telephone number for his insurer, as well as the toll-free number for the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. The customer also must be made aware, in writing, of his right to cancel the agreement within the first three days.

Damages under the NJCFA

To make a successful claim for fraud against a home improvement contractor under the NJCFA, you must prove the following:

  • The home improvement contractor engaged in an unlawful practice;
  • You suffered actual loss; and
  • The contractor’s actions caused your loss.

If you can meet these requirements, you may be entitled to treble damages (three times your actual loss), as well as reasonable attorney fees and reimbursement of legal costs.

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