• Home Improvements in NJ: What You Need to Know
  • August 8, 2017
  • Is it time for a new deck? Adding a family room? Upgrading a kitchen, or bathroom? Putting in new shrubs? Just about any time a homeowner hires a contractor to improve, or repair a home (or the property of the home), both the homeowner and the contractor step into one of the most regulated types of consumer transactions under New Jersey law. While nearly every consumer transaction is regulated by the Consumer Fraud Act, the New Jersey Contractor’s Registration Act specifically provides homeowners certain protections by regulating those performing home improvements, and further regulating the contents and performance of the home improvement contract.

    What qualifies as “home improvement”?

    Whether you are a homeowner seeking a contractor for home improvements, or the contractor rendering these services, it is critical that you understand your rights—as well as your obligations—in this heavily regulated area. Homeowners need to know they have protection against corrupt contractors, and contractors need to know their obligations entirely to avoid being taken advantage of by homeowners. But, before either of these individuals start thinking that whatever project they have in mind doesn’t qualify as home improvement, they’d best review the Act, or better yet, ask someone who is familiar with it—because it’s easy to misunderstand, or oversee the stringent regulations involved. The Act broadly defines “home improvement” as:

    “‘Home improvement’ means the remodeling, altering, renovating, repairing, restoring, modernizing, moving demolishing, or otherwise improving or modifying of the whole or any part of any residential or non-commercial property. Home improvement shall also include insulation installation, home elevation, and the conversion of existing commercial structures into residential or noncommercial property.”

    N.J.S.A. 56:8-137.

    The Act applies to a variety of home improvement contractors and services, from plumbers to builders, landscapers and electricians, or framers. It’s imperative to know these laws from the get-go, so homeowners and contractors alike can avoid experiencing a home improvement nightmare.

    Contractors, contracts, what do I need to know?

    Home improvement contractors in New Jersey are required to register with the Division of Consumer Affairs (the government agency responsible for protecting the public from fraud, deceit and misrepresentation in the sale of goods and services) if they wish to enter contracts exceeding $500. These protections ensure that contractors are creating, utilizing and executing home improvement services as they are specified in a contract. And every contract itself must include specific items in writing, the minimum being: A total price of the service/improvement, completion date and availability of insurance by the contractor. Should the contractor fail to perform the actions specified in the contract, he or she will be held liable.