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Cavileer v. Michel

A-627-02T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2003 (Unpublished)

CONTRACTORS; CONSUMER FRAUD—Even a contractor doing work for a friend needs to utilize a written agreement and otherwise comply with the contractor regulations under the Consumer Fraud Act.

A homeowner’s friend was in the business of plumbing, home repair, and remodeling. From time to time the friend performed minor household repairs for the homeowner, “such as fixing a clogged sewer line or broken heater.” It was disputed whether he ever charged for those services or performed them gratuitously. The contractor and his homeowner friend entered into a verbal agreement for the performance of extensive work at the homeowner’s house. A dispute arose before the work was completed and the homeowner sued his friend, the contractor, for return of the money that had been paid. The contractor counterclaimed for the balance of the work that was actually done. The homeowner argued that the Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) was applicable. The lower court held that it was, and the contractor appealed. The Appellate Division agreed with the lower court, stating that even if the contractor “had gratuitously performed in the past some relatively insignificant repair work for [the homeowner] and her husband, [he could not] be excused from failing to comply with the CFA and the regulations promulgated under it” with respect to a job that, “according to [the homeowner] was for $5,000 and, according to [the contractor] was for more than $10,000. ... The contractor [was] held strictly liable for violating the requirement that home improvement contracts in excess of $200 be in writing.”

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