New Jersey has strict rules when it comes to home improvement contracts in excess of $500, the overriding purpose of which is to protect consumers from unscrupulous contractors. The New Jersey Administrative Code § 13:45A-16.2(12)(i)-(vi) sets forth the requirements necessary in a home improvement contract. A violation of these written requirements is a violation of the statute.
N.J.A.C. § 13:45a-16.2(12) states in pertinent part:
All home improvement contracts for a purchase price in excess of $500, and all changes in the terms and conditions thereof shall be in writing. Home improvement contracts which are required by this subsection to be in writing, and all changes in the terms and conditions thereof, shall be signed by all parties thereto, and shall clearly and accurately set forth in legible form and in understandable language all terms and conditions of the contract, including but not limited to, the following:
- The legal name and business address of the seller, including the legal name and business address of the sales representative or agent who solicited or negotiated the contract for the seller;
- A description of the work to be done and the principal products and materials to be used or installed in performance of the contract. The description shall include where applicable the name, make, size, capacity, model, and model year of principal products or fixtures to be installed, and the type, grade, quality, size or quantity of principal building or construction materials to be used;
- The total price or other consideration to be paid by the buyer;
- The dates or time period on or within which the work is to begin and completed by the seller;
- A description of any mortgage or security interest to be taken in connection with the financing or sale of the home improvement; and
- A statement of any guaranty or warranty with respect to any products, materials, labor or services made by the seller.
A home improvement contractor who fails to comply with these regulations will be deemed to have committed a regulatory violation. If the homeowner files a lawsuit against the contractor for failing to comply with the home improvement contract regulations the contractor will face exposure of triple damages under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.
In order to state a claim under the Consumer Fraud Act, a plaintiff must allege each of three (3) elements: (1) unlawful conduct by the defendants; (2) an ascertainable loss on the part of the plaintiff; and (3) a causal relationship between the defendants’ unlawful conduct and the plaintiff’s ascertainable loss. N.J. Citizen Action v. Schering Plough Corp., 367 N.J. Super. 8, 12-13 (App. Div. 2003) cert. denied , 178 N.J. 249 (2003).
defines an unlawful practice as:
The act, use or employment by any person of any unconscionable commercial practice, deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation or the knowing, concealments, suppression or omission of nay material fact with intent that others rely upon such concealment, suppression or omission in connection with the sale or advertisement of any merchandise or real estate, or with the subsequent performance of such person as aforesaid, whether or not any person has in fact been misled, deceived or damaged thereby is declared to be an unlawful practice. . . .
There are three categories of “unlawful practices” found in the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act; namely, (1) affirmative acts, (2) knowing omissions, and (3) regulation violations. Cox v. Sears Roebuck & Co., 138 N.J. 2, 17 (2004).