My husband and I hired a contractor to renovate my husbands childhood home. My husband is in the Air Force. My father-in-laws health is deteriorating rapidly. We needed a home base to care for my father-in-law. Thus far, in a span of a year, we've given the contractor $110,000 and the house is no where near move in ready. We've asked him to provide proof of purchase on all materials, labor, etc and needless to say, he keeps on deflecting the issue. In addition, he continues to ask for more money. We refuse to give more money until he provides proof of where the $110,000 was spent on the house. At this point we are ready to relieve him of his duties. We want him to give us all the materials he claims to have bought for the house and all receipts of materials he claimed to use in the house thus far. What would be the steps to sue the contractor if he doesn't come up the materials and receipts?
3 Answers from Attorneys
Your first step would be to hire a lawyer and have him or her reach out the company. Sometimes a letter works wonder. If it doesn't, then a law suit will have to be filed. Your lawyer will do all of that for you. Feel free to call me at 732/773/2768
This is SO frustrating! I see it all the time, cases of bad contractors are on TV often... DON'T wait to call for help! Do you have a written contract? I literally CANNOT remember the last time I saw a contractor contract that meets the requirements of the 4 related NJ laws. I have NOT verified these links are current, but you can Google and review them:
The Consumer Fraud Act, N.J.S.A. 56:8-1 et seq.,
(found at: http://www.state.nj.us/oag/ca/laws/ConsumerFraudAct.pdf)
The Contractors’ Registration Act, found at N.J.S.A. § 56:8-136
(found at: http://njconsumeraffairs.gov/laws/ContractorsRegistrationLaw.pdf )
The Home Improvement Contractor Regulations in N.J.A.C. § 13:45A-17.1
(found at: http://njconsumeraffairs.gov/laws/ContractorRegistrationRegs.pdf )
The "Home Improvement Practices" regulations contained in N.J.A.C. 13:45A-16.1 et seq. (found at: http://njconsumeraffairs.gov/laws/ContractorRegistrationRegs.pdf )
Based on the few facts given, and the fact that you are asking what to do here, I can say you at least need to get an atty to review the contract, ANYTHING you have in writing, the payment record, and the records from the local building inspectors (GET IT if you don't have it all!). There is little else i can tell you without first reviewing those records and asking you about 100 questions.
Is your contractor licensed as a home improvement contractor in NJ? Goto: https://newjersey.mylicense.com/verification/Search.aspx?facility=Y, and check, or call NJ Dept. of Consumer Affairs at: (973) 504-6200
Did he give you his proof of insurance? Do all his vehicles have the name of the company, tel. number and Lic. # on them? Does all his letterhead, business cards, contracts have the legal name of the business (or DBA name), the physical address, telephone number and License # on them? Does the contract detail all work to be performed? Does it ID the materials to be used (for things like plumbing fixtures, shingles, etc. - ex. "GAF Timberline Dimensional 35 year shingles") to be used? Did he get proper permits? Did he get proper inspections?
Even good contractors rarely get the paperwork right, but if they don't, the homeowner OFTEN ends up NOT getting what they thought they were paying for, with with a lot of Change Orders they never bargained for! There is a high probability that your contractor has breached 2-4 of the NJ Acts that apply to him, usually that includes the Consumer Fraud Act, which, if violated, REQUIRES the court to award you atty fees, and treble (3x) damages. The problem is that most of the time, after fighting to get an award, and it is usually a lot of work, and a lot of time has passed, and it is difficult to get any money from the contractor. So... there are a lot of factors to take into account to find the best things for you to do.
A lot of attys find construction matters interesting, but that does not mean they are good at it, and just like with doctors, you can find a great atty that may not be great at construction matters! So, before hiring an atty, ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS about THEIR background and knowledge of construction. Personally, I was a construction engineer for 15 years before I hung out a shingle, and other attys use me for their more complex construction matters. If you are too far away, I can try to find closer attys to refer you to.
PLEASE DO NOT DELAY any longer, you will just allow things to get worse! Do something NOW!!!
I hope this helps you. --- KJB
I handle construction law disputes and may be able to help you with this one. For now, it is important that you cut your losses and get some good advice on how best to proceed. From your description of the problem, it seems likely that this contractor has not met the requirements of New Jersey law. I just obtained an award for $71,000 for a homeowner in a case where the actual payments were about half of yours. Every case is unique and yours deserves some special attention. If you would like to discuss your case in detail, please call and we can arrange an appointment.
See also: http://info.corbettlaw.net/lawguru.htm