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Date: January 10, 2010

Paper Placemats, Home Improvement, and Heads in the Sand

Author: Bob Incollingo

Theory: N.J.A.C. 13:45A-17.11(d)2 requires a registered home improvement contractor to prominently display the contractor’s registration number on all advertisements distributed within this State, on business documents, contracts and correspondence with consumers of home improvement services in this State, and on all commercial vehicles registered in this State and leased or owned by a registrant and used by the registrant for the purpose of providing home improvements, except for vehicles leased or rented by a registrant to a customer of that registrant. The stated purpose of this and associated rules is to implement the provisions of the Consumer Fraud Act by providing procedures for the regulation of home improvement contractors and establishing standards to facilitate enforcement of the Act.

Reality: Go into any diner in New Jersey and look at your paper placemat. Study the little box advertisements for residential contractors, and count the ones who do or don’t have a home improvement registration number in their ad. Look at the pickup trucks outside the diner, the business cards tacked up in the lobby, the cardboard signs in front of the neighborhood houses; how many show registration numbers?

The fact is, it isn’t that hard to tag a contractor with liability for some shortcoming under the mountain of statutes and regulations which affect construction. That’s not really fair to the contractor, but each of these laws and regulations addresses (in theory) some societal problem, the blame for which has been laid at the door of the construction business. Contractors understand generally that these laws are out there, but many shrug them off as being more trouble and expense than they are worth to comply with. Those contractors are wrong, and that’s where the lawyers come in. It’s just so depressingly avoidable.

How about it, Mr. Contractor? Is your form of contract enforceable, or is it your ticket to the consumer fraud show? Odds are good you’ll find out one way or the other.

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