Q: Can we get our deposit back from a contractor who has not started project when promised?
We entered into a large contract for a backyard renovation over a year ago. A start and end date estimate were included in the contract but we are many months beyond those, with no physical work having been started. We know he obtained a survey and hired an architect shortly after the contract was signed, but have no other information on the standing of the project. He is not returning calls and we have lost trust.
A: Yes. Also, fact dependent, you may be able to recover treble damages and legal fees. Speak to an attorney who is familiar with consumer fraud matters.
A: Unfortunately this type of case has been all too common. In addtion to the facts that you stated, the law in NJ is heavily in your favor. Almost no home improvement contract that I have ever seen is in compliance with the N.J. Home Improvement Contractor Act. But even more important than that is the fact that this situation will almost certainly violate the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, which provides for triple damages plus attorney fees. But you are at all times responsible for your own attorney fees. During this pandemic, you have a choice of either seeing your attorney in person or by way of a secure state of the art Zoom Video Conference. So you don’t have to be restricted by geography anymore in terms of choosing an attorney. You can “Meet” your attorney online for an initial strategy session from the comfort of your own home. Through mail, e-mail and electronic filing almost everything can be done without leaving your home, for most types of cases. Pick the best attorney you can find and remember one rule: a good attorney is generally never cheap, and a cheap attorney is generally never good so don't choose based on price.
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