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Your Remedies in New Jersey after Home Improvement Fraud

The Protections Provided by the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act

Improvement FraudIt seems there are few things in life more challenging, frustrating and often unsatisfactory than home improvement projects. It doesn’t seem like it should be that complicated, but home remodeling and improvement efforts are frequently rife with delays, shoddy work, mistakes and outright fraud.

In New Jersey, there’s good news—there’s a law that specifically applies to home improvement agreements. It can give you the legal tools you need to combat unnecessary delays, construction defects, disputes over performance, and overcharging.

What Is the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act?

The New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (NJCFA) is a written law, applicable to the sale of goods, services and real estate, that bans “unconscionable commercial practice, deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation, or the knowing concealment, suppression, or omission of any material fact.” The courts in New Jersey have held that home improvement contracts are particularly prone to instances of consumer fraud. Accordingly, extensive regulations have been adopted governing home improvement contracts. For example, the NJCFA requires that all home improvement agreements and any change orders be in writing and signed by both parties. Contractors must also provide detailed information, including, among other things:

  • A contractor registration number
  • A telephone number for the contractor’s insurer
  • A description of work to be done and materials to be used
  • The total purchase price, including any finance charges
  • The date the project will begin and the date it is expected to be completed
  • A written copy of any warranty or guarantee offered
  • Notification of the customer’s three-day right to cancel

The Requirements for a Legal Claim under the NJCFA

To prevail on a claim under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, you must show three things:

  • The contractor engaged in an illegal or prohibited practice
  • The engagement in that act caused you to suffer losses
  • Your losses can be ascertained

The act may involve affirmative conduct, a known omission or failure to act, or a violation of an administrative regulation.

Contact Attorney David J. Karbasian

Contact our office online or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Your first consultation is without cost or obligation. The sooner you call, the sooner you can move forward with your claim. We can accommodate evening or weekend meeting requests and will come to your home, if necessary.

Steps You Can Take to Reduce the Risk of Mortgage Fraud

Mortgage-Fraud

When you’re buying a house or refinancing, you want to get the best deal possible, but you also need to be careful to avoid fraudulent mortgage lending practices. Here are some basic guidelines to reduce the risk that you’ll be taken in by a mortgage lending scam.

Work with Someone You Know or Trust

The best way to steer around potential mortgage fraud is to do business with someone that you know, who you’ve worked with before. If this is the first time you’ve used a mortgage banker, get referrals from people you trust, including family, friends and professional advisors.

Only Work with Someone You Can Meet in Person

It’s been possible to apply for and obtain a mortgage loan online for years, but you always want to know that the mortgage lender has a bricks and mortar office somewhere. If it’s just an e-mail address and a cell phone number, there’s a good chance it’s not legitimate.

Check Out the Lender

There are organizations, such as the Better Business Bureau, who track companies and can tell you if they’ve had complaints filed against them. Don’t be surprised, though, if there’s been at least one complaint filed against the lender—that’s not unusual. But if there are dozens or more, look elsewhere. Furthermore, find out how long the mortgage lender has been in business. If the company is relatively new, find out where their owners were previously, and what they were doing professionally. As a general rule, there’s greater risk in a newer company, but there are always exceptions.

Don’t Sign Anything Unless You Know What It Is

The lender may put a stack of documents in front of you and tell you they’re a “formality.” Take the time to carefully review every document. If you don’t know what it is or what it means, don’t sign it. If necessary, contact an attorney to explain the document to you.

Contact the Law Offices of David J. Karbasian, PC

Send us an e-mail today or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. We handle all personal injury claims on a contingent fee basis. We won’t charge any attorney fees unless we recover compensation for your losses. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We’ll come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

Don’t Be a Victim of Appraisal Fraud

Appraisal-Fraud

Your House May Be Overvalued and You Might Pay for It

Whether you’re looking to buy a house or refinance, at some point you’ll need to have the property appraised, so that you know how much can be financed using the property as collateral. There can be a tendency, when the appraisal comes in higher than you expected, to decide to finance more, so that you can do some remodeling or pay off some other bills. You need to be careful, though, that the appraisal doesn’t misstate the value of your property, putting you underwater when it comes time to sell.

Appraisal fraud is not uncommon in the mortgage industry. Unfortunately, because of the way the mortgage business works, there’s an incentive for appraisers to “tweak” the numbers, almost always up. Here’s how it works:

  • When you contact a lender to finance or refinance your home, you’ll typically get a “good faith” estimate for the amount of the loan, based on purchase price or what you plan to do with the refinance proceeds
  • Your lender will hire an appraiser to estimate a fair market value for the property
  • Because there are many appraisers competing for work with lenders, there’s an incentive for the appraiser to find a way to meet or exceed the good faith estimate.

Of course, there is a down side for lenders as well. If the appraisal overstates the value of the property and the lender makes a larger loan, the lender could end up on the short side of the deal if the property goes into foreclosure. However, most mortgage lenders sell their mortgages, so they don’t end up facing those types of problems.

As a practical matter, it may be in your best interests to get an independent appraisal, so that you have a realistic sense of what the property is worth.

Contact Attorney David J. Karbasian

Contact our office online or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Your first consultation is without cost or obligation. The sooner you call, the sooner you can move forward with your claim. We can accommodate evening or weekend meeting requests and will come to your home, if necessary.

Filing a Claim under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act

Filing a Claim

Under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA), citizens can bring legal action against entities or individuals who sell goods, services or real estate alleging deceptive marketing practices.

There are three general requirements to qualify for relief under the CFA:

  • You must prove that the defendant engaged in an "unlawful act"
  • You must show that you have sustained a tangible or identifiable financial loss
  • You must show a causal connection between the defendant’s unlawful act and your loss

It’s important to understand that that Consumer Fraud Act does not require any direct contact between the perpetrator of a fraud and the victim—you only have to show that the wrongful conduct caused or contributed to the loss.

In addition, the wrongful or unlawful act can take a variety of forms. A false or misleading statement of fact or any “affirmative act” can constitute an unlawful act, but so can a knowing or intentional omission of material fact or information. Furthermore, if you can show that the defendant violation a specific law or regulation, that will be sufficient.

It’s not enough that the defendant engaged in an unlawful act, if you can’t show that you suffered any measurable loss. For example, if you opted not to buy goods or retain services, you won’t have a claim, even if the defendant’s action violated consumer product regulations or other laws.

One caveat—there’s an exception to the Consumer Fraud Act, known as the “learned professional” exception, which exempts doctors, attorneys and other similarly licensed professionals for any services within the scope of their licenses.

Contact the Law Offices of David J. Karbasian, PC

Send us an e-mail today or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment.

We handle all personal injury claims on a contingent fee basis. We won’t charge any attorney fees unless we recover compensation for your losses.

Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We’ll come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

Bogus Motor Vehicles for Sale on Craigslist

Bogus Motor Vehicles

The internet has made many things in life much easier…including consumer fraud schemes. Often, what appear to be legitimate offers or transactions are designed only to separate you from your hard-earned money.

Phony Car Ads on Craigslist

A scam that seems to be increasing rapidly involves phony offers to sell goods or services. As a general rule, the goods tend to be bigger ticket items, such as motor vehicles, vacation rentals or high-end electronics, but can involve just about anything. You may find the offers on very legitimate websites, such as Craigslist or eBay, and the “seller” may send you documents or e-mails that appear to be bona fide.

A scam that’s popular right now involves the sale of cars on Craigslist. When you inquire about the vehicle, the “seller” will tell you that the transaction must be run through “eBay Motors” and that you need to make payment with prepaid debit cards or some other alternative method. Don’t ever buy anything that requires you to purchase a prepaid debit card or deliver instant access to cash without simultaneously receiving possession of the goods or services. It’s probably a scam. You should never have to leave eBay or Craigslist or any other website to complete the transaction.

Here are some other red flags related to the bogus online motor vehicle sales scam:

  • The price asked for the vehicle is nowhere near its real value—If the deal seems too good to be true, it most likely is. Expect that the “seller” will have a good story to tell you—the car belonged to a family member who died or has been in storage for a number years.
  • The seller is in a different state than you are—Craigslist does not give you the option to advertise nationally, as many car websites do. So ask yourself why someone in California would advertise a car for sale on the Craigslist page in Harrisonburg, Virginia. If it’s such a great car and the price is so unbelievable, the seller should have no problem selling it in California.
  • The seller offers to deliver the car at no additional cost to you—As a general rule, the buyer pays for the cost of delivery. Again, you may get good stories about why the seller can easily deliver to you at no cost…they travel for business is a popular one. But how will they get back home after they deliver the vehicle to you? Are they going to drive out of their way to deliver a vehicle to you at less than market value?
  • The seller pressures you to “close the deal quickly”—this simply indicates that the seller doesn’t want you to take the time to ask the questions above.

Contact Attorney David J. Karbasian

Contact our office online or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Your first consultation is without cost or obligation. The sooner you call, the sooner you can move forward with your claim. We can accommodate evening or weekend meeting requests and will come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

Protecting Yourself Against Home Improvement Fraud in New Jersey

The Requirements for a Home Improvement Contract in New Jersey

Custom Kitchen Design Drawing

The state of New Jersey takes consumer fraud seriously, including any fraud perpetrated by persons offering home improvement services to homeowners. Under New Jersey’s Home Improvement Practices Act, this includes general contractors, landscaping contractors, clearing or restoration contractors and anyone performing home improvement or repair service for a homeowner. All home improvement contractors must annually register with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and may be denied permits if they have not done so.

Home Improvement Contracts in New Jersey

Under the provisions of the Home Improvement Act, any contract for home improvement services in excess of $500 must be in writing. Furthermore, the written agreement must include the following:

  • The legal name, address and state registration number of the contractor, as well as any subcontractors
  • When the work will start, as well as a projected completion date
  • A full and accurate description of all work to be done and all services to be provided
  • The full amount that the homeowner will be charged for all services and materials, including any potential finance charges
  • A full description of all supplies and materials the contractor anticipates using to complete the project
  • A description of any type of security interest the contractor will take regarding the payment for home improvement services
  • Any guarantee that the contractor offers regarding the services provided
    The contractor must advise the homeowner of the right to cancel the contract any time within three days of signing. The contractor must also give the homeowner a copy of his or her general liability insurance policy.

Contact Attorney David J. Karbasian

Contact our office online or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Your first consultation is without cost or obligation. The sooner you call, the sooner you can move forward with your claim. We can accommodate evening or weekend meeting requests and will come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

Steps You Can Take When You Have Been the Victim of Consumer Fraud

steps-you-can-take-when-you-have-been-the-victim-of-consumer-fraudIf you have been victimized in a consumer fraud scheme, the first thing you want to do is contact an experienced attorney. There are, however, other steps you can take to protect yourself and to help put others on notice of the potential scam.

Contact the National Consumer League’s Fraud Center

The National Consumer League provides information to the public regarding known scams, as well as ways that you can avoid being swindled. The League can also help you file a complaint with the proper federal regulatory agency.

File a Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an independent agency that promotes consumer protection and seeks to enforce anti-trust and competition laws. As a consumer, you can file a complaint with the FTC and the FTC will gather information and potentially take action against entities that are the subject of many complaints. The FTC also provides information regarding how to steer clear of consumer fraud scams.

Contact Your State’s Consumer Protection Agency

Most states have a separate consumer protection agency. In New Jersey, that’s the Office of Consumer Protection at the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. The OCP enforces the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and has specific divisions that focus on home improvement contractors, cyber-fraud, motor vehicle fraud, lemon laws and kosher/halal enforcement.

Contact Our Office Today

Don’t wait another day—evidence may be lost! Your first consultation is free of charge. Contact us by e-mail or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We’ll come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

We handle all consumer fraud claims on a contingency basis. You won’t pay any attorney fees unless we recover compensation for your losses.

What Happens If You Receive Something in the Mail that You Didn’t Order?

what-happens-if-you-receive-something-in-the-mail-that-you-didnt-orderIt’s a fairly common consumer fraud scheme—a vendor mails you something unsolicited, then sends you a bill. When you contact the company to tell them you didn’t order it, they ask you to send it back, often at your expense, then threaten you with prosecution or send you more bills or collection letters. What are your options?

The first thing to understand is that any time you receive an item that you didn’t order, it’s a gift. It will never be considered theft and it will never be considered fraud. If the vendor continues to harass you, ask for written proof that you ordered the item. If the vendor fails to produce that, but continues to harass you, contact an attorney immediately. You should also notify your state’s consumer protection agency, as well as the consumer protection agency in the state where the vendor is located.

In addition, a vendor cannot send you an unsolicited letter, telling you that if you don’t return a form by a certain date, you will receive goods and be charged for them. You can only be held responsible for that type of arrangement if you agree to it in advance. For example, with a book-of-the-month club or similar vendor, you must first respond to a mailing or advertisement before you can become obligated to anything.

If a vendor has or gets your credit card information and charges you for something you didn’t order, contact your credit card company and contest the charge.

Contact Us to Protect Your Rights

In the aftermath of a personal injury or consumer fraud, evidence can get lost and memories can fade. Don’t run the risk that you won’t be able to get full and fair compensation for your injuries. Contact our office online or call us at 856-667-4666 to arrange a meeting. Evening and weekend appointments can be set up by request. We’ll also come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

We handle all personal injury claims on a contingent fee basis. There won’t be any attorney fees unless we recover compensation for your losses.

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