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Carboni v. Massimo

A-2068-05T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2007) (Unpublished)

CONSUMER FRAUD ACT —Just because a homeowner prepares his or her own plans does not mean that the Consumer Fraud Act does not apply to an agreement between that homeowner and a general contractor.

A homeowner entered into a written agreement with a contractor for improvements to the homeowner’s house. The contractor performed work and the agreed-upon sum was paid, as was an additional sum for more work which the contractor undertook without a written change order. The homeowner later sued because the contractor “improperly used metal connectors; he inserted nails that were not engaged in the wood; and he impermissibly cut prefabricated framing connectors. He committed building code violations, and, significantly, [the contractor] attempted to deceive [the homeowner] by covering up the improper work with sheetrock.”

The contractor argued that the Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) claim made by the homeowner against him did not apply to the contract between them because the homeowner “acted as [his] own ‘general contractor’ by preparing the plans for the improvements.” The Court rejected this argument as being without merit. It pointed out that the CFA “is remedial legislation, which must be construed liberally in favor of consumers. [The contractor’s] claim that the contract [was] exempt from the CFA because [the homeowner] prepared [his] own plans is antithetical to the purpose of the CFA and its concomitant regulations. The contract between the parties [was] exactly the type of home improvement contract the regulations [had] been enacted to address.”

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