Fox v. Genesis Building, Inc.

A-2312-98T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2000) (Unpublished)
  • Opinion Date: January 11, 2000

CONTRACTORS; WARRANTIES—A new home builder’s post-completion promises to make repairs may be separately enforceable against the contractor and are not limited by the new home warranty act.

A new home buyer complained that some of the windows in the house were drafty and loose and that the master bathroom floor squeaked. The buyer testified that the builder’s representatives promised to make the needed repairs, but never did. By the time the buyer filed a claim under the New Jersey Home Warranty Builders Registration Act, it was beyond the one-year limit for filing. The buyer then filed a claim in the small claims division, alleging that the builder had promised to make the repairs, that the buyer had relied on that promise to its detriment, and that this was the cause for delaying the filing on the claim with the warranty bureau. The lower court found, and the Appellate Division agreed, that all of the elements of promissory estoppel had been satisfied. In particular, the builder should reasonably have expected that its promise to make repairs would cause the buyer to rely on that promise. It was not necessary that the builder knew that the buyer would forgo filing a claim under the warranty. In fact, the builder had previously made repairs and told the buyer that “it preferred to avoid warranty claims because they might increase [its] insurance premiums.” Further, as to the builder’s contention that the buyer elected a remedy under the warranty act, the Court pointed out that only initiation of proceedings under the warranty act constitutes an election which would bar an owner from any other remedy. Therefore, it was clear to the Court that the buyer could pursue its claim against the builder.