Law Office Of Paul DePetris
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What If I Am Sued By A New Jersey Home Improvement Contractor?

INTRODUCTION
Read below to learn more about this topic.  Or, to receive a no cost phone consultation, call Mr. DePetris at 609-714-2020 or send him an email.  Warning – this article does not necessarily include every New Jersey court rule, code or law that may apply to your New Jersey case!  The Law Office of Paul DePetris does not guarantee that the statutes, rules, codes, files or forms on this website are the latest versions, that they lack typographical errors or that they have not changed, repealed or superseded by other laws.  Before taking any action, read all applicable federal and state source law and case law and consult with an attorney.  Court addresses, hours of operation and directions may change so check with the New Jersey court in advance of mailing documents to court or going there!  Some of the webpages on this site don’t apply to all types of New Jersey cases, since there are different rules for different case types!


WHAT IF I AM SUED BY A NEW JERSEY HOME IMPROVEMENT CONTRACTOR?
If you are sued by a New Jersey home improvement contractor, you shall be named to a New Jersey home improvement contractor’s complaint or New Jersey home improvement contractor’s counterclaim and must file a written response to the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s complaint or the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s counterclaim, called an answer to the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s complaint or answer to the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s counterclaim.   Failure to do so could result in your being defaulted and exposes you to the risk of having a New Jersey money judgment entered against you and thereafter, possibly losing money or property.  You may file an answer to the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s lawsuit in New Jersey court by preparing a written answer to the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s lawsuit disputing charges made against you in the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s complaint or the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s counterclaim and requesting that the New Jersey court dismiss the New Jersey home improvement case.  If the New Jersey home improvement contractor or someone that isn’t named in the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s complaint owes you money or property based on the same set of facts as those in dispute in the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s complaint or facts related to the dispute, in addition to filing an answer to the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s lawsuit, you may also be able to file a counterclaim or third party complaint to recover the money or property (discussed below).  New Jersey court forms are often available at the appropriate court office and via the worldwide web.  However, neither New Jersey court forms, websites nor advice from court personnel are good substitutes for a New Jersey lawyer’s legal services.  Each New Jersey home improvement case has its own particular legal issues and therefore, its own challenges.  It is very common for New Jersey homeowners to file inadequate or incorrect answers to New Jersey home improvement contractors’ complaints that result in the New Jersey homeowners’ answers to the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s lawsuits being rejected by the New Jersey court or being dismissed by the New Jersey court after filing and before or after New Jersey trial because of procedural deficiencies.  It is important to be truthful and not to make misstatements of facts when answer to the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s complaints and New Jersey counterclaims.   It is extremely important that you prepare your answer to the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s lawsuit very carefully and make sure that you include in the answer to the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s lawsuit a detailed list of all defenses against the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s complaint or counterclaim that you are responding to, since failure to do so could cause you to lose   your New Jersey home improvement case.  Accordingly, when you are sued by a New Jersey home improvement contractor, you should seriously consider hiring a New Jersey lawyer to prepare your response to the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s complaint or counterclaim, to prepare written requests for information to the New Jersey home improvement contractor and if you can afford it, to have a New Jersey attorney represent you in New Jersey court.  After your answer to the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s lawsuit is prepared, you must file it by either visiting the New Jersey Superior Courthouse or appropriate Court Finance Office in the county where the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s complaint was filed – all of which are located in the county seat of the appropriate county -- or by sending the necessary paperwork to the appropriate county office of the Superior Court of New Jersey.  You must pay a fee to file your answer to the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s lawsuit that is determined based on the amount of the original dispute and the type of New Jersey trial you want and whether you intend to add parties to the New Jersey debt collection lawsuit (discussed below).   Only persons age 18 or older are able to file an answer to the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s lawsuit for themselves (minors must file an answer to the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s lawsuit through their parent or guardian).   If you are not represented by an attorney in a New Jersey case, you are called a “pro se litigant”.


WHY DEFEND AGAINST A NEW JERSEY HOME IMPROVEMENT CONTRACTOR LAWSUIT?
Don’t just ignore a New Jersey home improvement contractor’s complaint or New Jersey home improvement contractor’s counterclaim – properly respond to it!   Sometimes this requires you to file the proper New Jersey answer.   If you are sued by a New Jersey home improvement contractor and you do not defend against a New Jersey home improvement contract lawsuit, the New Jersey home improvement contractor may win a New Jersey money judgment against you and this could negatively affect your credit.  If you ignore a New Jersey home improvement judgment, your bank account may be frozen and money in it turned over to the New Jersey home improvement contractor or other person or business holding the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s judgment, some of your wages may be taken from you, your personal property may be seized by the sheriff and sold to satisfy the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s judgment and/or a lien may be put against a house you own.  Often New Jersey homeowners wait until their bank account is frozen or until their wages are attached to take action – at that point it is difficult and sometimes too late to do anything to successfully stop the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s collection efforts.  It is not uncommon for New Jersey courts to refuse to help such latecomers from taking issue with the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s collection efforts unless they file papers with the New Jersey Court for relief.   


HOW CAN I WIN A NEW JERSEY HOME IMPROVEMENT CONTRACTOR LAWSUIT? 
If you are sued by a New Jersey home improvement contractor and the New Jersey home improvement contract violates the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act or the New Jersey Home Improvement Practices Regulations or the New Jersey Contractors’ Registration Act, the New Jersey home improvement contract may be partly unenforceable or totally unenforceable and therefore, the New Jersey home improvement contractor may be prevented from collecting some or even all of the unpaid New Jersey home improvement contract bill.   If the New Jersey home improvement contractor violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, the New Jersey home improvement contractor may face a judgment requiring the New Jersey home improvement contractor to pay the New Jersey homeowner’s attorney’s fees and court costs.   The following are examples of New Jersey cases where New Jersey home improvement contractors failed to collect on their New Jersey home improvement contracts because they committed New Jersey consumer fraud violations:
An unlicensed landscape irrigation New Jersey home improvement contractor sued a New Jersey homeowner to collect an unpaid New Jersey home improvement contract bill for a sprinkling system and the New Jersey homeowner countersued the New Jersey home improvement contractor, alleging that the New Jersey home improvement contract was not enforceable because the New Jersey home improvement contractor violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. 
An owner of a cleaning and restoration franchise specializing in mitigating damage following a fire or flood filed a New Jersey collection lawsuit against New Jersey homeowners and they countersued the New Jersey home improvement contractor.  The New Jersey court found that the New Jersey home improvement contractor caused the dispute and therefore that the New Jersey home improvement contractor was not allowed to collect the unpaid New Jersey home improvement contract bill.
A New Jersey home improvement contractor sued a New Jersey homeowner to collect an unpaid New Jersey home improvement contract bill.   But because the New Jersey home improvement contractor failed to display its New Jersey home improvement contractor registration number on the New Jersey home improvement contract, on most invoices and change orders, failed to display the Division of Consumer Affairs’ toll-free number on its documents and failed to put every change order in writing, the New Jersey home improvement contract bill was uncollectible.
A New Jersey home improvement contractor sued a New Jersey homeowner to collect an unpaid New Jersey home improvement contract bill and the New Jersey homeowner countersued the New Jersey home improvement contractor because the work was shoddy.  Thereafter, the New Jersey court found that not only was the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s work shoddy but that the New Jersey home improvement contractor violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.   The New Jersey home improvement contractor was prevented from recovering the unpaid New Jersey home improvement contract bill. 


WHAT PENALTIES DO NEW JERSEY HOME IMPROVEMENT CONTRACTORS FACE IF THEY COMMIT NEW JERSEY CONSUMER FRAUD VIOLATIONS?
If you are sued by a New Jersey home improvement contractor and the New Jersey home improvement contractor violates the New Jersey Contractor’s Registration Act or the New Jersey Home Improvement Practices regulations or the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, New Jersey home improvement fraud victims may be entitled to the following relief:
Cancellation of fraudulent debts.
Treble damages for ascertainable loss of money or property caused by the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act Violation.
Attorney’s fee award for prosecuting the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act Violation or defending against lawsuits by contractors to collect a fraudulent debt.
Refund of money lost due to the contractor’s New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act Violation.


SHOULD I TRY TO ANSWER THE NEW JERSEY HOME IMPROVEMENT CONTRACTOR COMPLAINT BY MYSELF?
If you are sued by a New Jersey home improvement contractor, answering New Jersey home improvement contractor complaint without the assistance of a New Jersey attorney could seriously affect your New Jersey home improvement contractor case defense.  What you say in your answer to a New Jersey home improvement contractor complaint may be used against you.  Also, failure to answer each allegation in a New Jersey home improvement contractor complaint properly may result in claims being considered proven against you.  Also, if you fail to raise each and every New Jersey home improvement contractor case defense in your answer to the New Jersey home improvement contractor complaint, you may give up the right to argue those New Jersey home improvement contractor case defenses at your New Jersey home improvement contractor trial.


WHAT HAPPENS IF A NEW JERSEY HOME IMPROVEMENT CASE DEFENDANT IS DEFAULTED?
If you are sued by a New Jersey home improvement contractor and a New Jersey default is entered against a New Jersey home improvement case defendant, then no New Jersey trial will occur (unless the New Jersey court vacates the New Jersey default) and the New Jersey home improvement contractor has a certain amount of time from the date of the entry of New Jersey default to file additional paperwork with the New Jersey court to seek a New Jersey default judgment against a New Jersey homeowner.  In some cases, securing a New Jersey default judgment only requires the New Jersey home improvement contractor to submit paperwork to the New Jersey court without holding any New Jersey court hearings in which the New Jersey homeowner is able to contest the New Jersey home improvement contractor’s bill.


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