Kitchen Contractor Potentially Liable Under New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act

CZAR, Inc. v. Heath, 939 A.2d 837 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2008)

In this case, a homeowner brought claims against a custom kitchen contractor under New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act.  During the construction of a new home, the homeowner had contracted directly with a custom kitchen contractor for the installation of custom kitchen cabinets, interior doors, a front door, and certain moldings.  The trial concluded that the home improvement practice regulations found in N.J.A.C. 13:45A-16.1 to 16.2 were not applicable to plaintiff and, therefore, dismissed the CFA claims.  The trial court reasoned that the kitchen contractor’s work was not a “home improvement” within the meaning of the regulation because the construction and installation of the doors, cabinets, and moldings were part of the construction of a new residence and, therefore, excluded from the definition of “home improvement.”

The decision was reversed on appeal and remanded for trial.  The appellate court determined that, where the home owner contracted directly with the custom kitchen contractor, and contracted directly for the installation and construction of the cabinets, and where the contractor did not construct the new home, the contractor’s services fell with the definition of “home improvement seller” under N.J.A.C. 13:45A-16.1A.  As such, the contractor was not a “new home builder” and was, in fact, subject to the Consumer Fraud Act and administrative regulations devoted to home improvement practices.

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