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Cheret v. Sure Home Inspections

HNT-L-685-07 (N.J. Super. Law Div. 2009) (Unpublished)

CONSUMER FRAUD ACT; INSPECTORS — Home inspectors qualify under the “learned profession exception” and therefore the Consumer Fraud Act does not apply to a licensed home inspector in performance of the inspector’s duties.

Complaining of a faulty home inspection, the homeowners sued their inspector alleging, among other things, that the inspector had violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA). The inspector moved to dismiss, arguing that, under the “learned profession exception,” the CFA did not apply to a licensed home inspector.

The Court granted the home inspector’s motion and dismissed the CFA charge, agreeing with the inspector that learned professionals who act in their professional capacity are not subject to claims under the CFA. According to the Court, home inspectors are clearly in a learned profession as they are subject to testing, licensing, regulations, and other legislative provisions that do not apply to ordinary commercial sellers of goods and services. For example, the Court found that home inspectors are statutorily obligated to take a specified amount of continuing education courses during a biennial period, maintain insurance, possess mandatory tools and equipment, and are subject to license suspension or revocation for misconduct. The Court also noted that the Appellate Division had previously ruled that a similar group, real estate brokers, even though clearly rendering services in connection with the sale of real estate, are “semi-professionals” and thus beyond the reach of the act because they are subject to testing, licensing, regulations, and penalties through other legislative provisions. Although the homeowners claimed that their inspector did not point to any precedential case specifically stating that home inspectors were exempt from the CFA, the Court found that the homeowners cited no case or other legal authority that limited the otherwise clear applicability of the policies behind the learned profession exception – the extensive education, license supervision, and training requirements, which provide an alternative to CFA liability to the public.

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