New Jersey Residential home improvement contractors are required to provide clients with an estimated timeframe for the completion of the work. In a recent unpublished case from the Appellate Division, a contractor provided the homeowner with a 45-day time period from the date of the contract to complete an addition. However, due permit delays and other reasons, the work did not begin until months later. Despite the contractual time-frame not being met, the court found that there was no violation of the CFA, stating that the homeowners, "were aware that ... [c]onstruction began approximately 120 days from the contract date, yet defendants did not cancel the contract or allege a breach at that time." Furthermore, although a change order for additional work was never signed by the homeowner, a regulatory violation of the CFA, the court found that since there was no ascertainable loss suffered by the homeowner as a result of the regulatory violation, the contractor was not liable for damages under the CFA. (MYCWHome, LLC v. White, et. al.)
A recent non-precedential Appellate Division case serves as a reminder that not all arbitration provisions are drafted equally. At issue in a residential construction suit was the defendant-contractor's arbitration provision which required an aggrieved homeowner to file a claim with the American Arbitration Association in lieu of filing an action in court. However, the provision at issue did not contain specific language which would have informed a reasonable homeowner that by going to arbitration they would be "waiving a right to seek relief in a court of law." (see Atalese v. U.S. Legal Servs. Grp., 219 N.J. 430 (2014)). This proved fatal to the defendant-contractor's invocation of arbitration, and the defendant-contractor's motion to compel arbitration was reversed and the matter remanded to the trial court for (expensive) litigation. This serves as a reminder for all businesses and individuals with arbitration clauses in their contracts to have same reviewed by an attorney knowledgeable on the subject matter. (Becker v. Ollie Slocum and Son, Inc.)
Peter J. Vazquez, Jr.