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I gave $1300 check as a deposit to a landscaper on July 2nd

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I gave $1300 check as a deposit to a landscaper on July 2nd to repair the damages from Hurricane Sandy at my home. On the contract he indicated that he would be finished by July 6th. He was suppose to repair the irrigation system, build a small retaining wall, and re-landscape my property. Before he started, I told him that I had an almost brand new backflow that could be re-used. He said no, he would put a new one. He started the job on July 9th. He installed a backflow backwards and replaced only one hoes. He did not bury the hoes into the ground as he should have and left all the hoes exposed.
Each night I came out to see if he had finished the work. Each night for a week, I noted that only a backflow had been installed (incorrectly), and all the hoes exposed. On Saturday morning, July 14th, I called to get a status update because I was concerned about the work that was not finished. The contractor made several flimsy excuses. I waited until Monday, July 16th but no work had been completed except for the very poor irrigation work. I called two irrigation companies and they came out to inspect and quote for the correct work. One said that the original contractor could be fined for not being licensed to do irrigation work. I contracted one of the licensed irrigation companies and they completed the work. I called the original contractor and told him what I had done. He agreed that he would do the landscaping work only. I told him that I would get a masonry contractor to put the retaining wall up and then have him do the landscaping. Since money is tight, I decided not to put a retaining wall and just have the landscaping completed. I called the original contractor on Tuesday, September 3rd and he told me that he would not do anything unless I gave him more money. We argued and then I hang up.
I want to file a complaint but I need a statute. What would that statute be in NJ?

Is this a civil matter or a criminal matter?
Submitted: 7 months ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  AlexiaEsq. replied 7 months ago.
Hi, my name is XXXXX XXXXX X thank you for your inquiry. I have been practicing Criminal and Civil law for 19+ years and look forward to assisting you.

I gave $1300 check as a deposit to a landscaper on July 2nd to repair the damages from Hurricane Sandy at my home. OK, was that the amount he requested? How did you come up with that set amount?

On the contract he indicated that he would be finished by July 6th. He was suppose to repair the irrigation system, build a small retaining wall, and re-landscape my property. Do you know if he is licensed?

Before he started, I told him that I had an almost brand new backflow that could be re-used. He said no, he would put a new one. He started the job on July 9th. He installed a backflow backwards and replaced only one hoes. He did not bury the hoes into the ground as he should have and left all the hoes exposed. I am not highly knowledgible on backflow! But if you know he did the work improperly, you may need a different, preferably more credentialed licensed expert to evaluate and provide a written opinion that the workmanship was contrary to acceptable standards in the industry, and what he should have done.

Each night I came out to see if he had finished the work. Each night for a week, I noted that only a backflow had been installed (incorrectly), and all the hoes exposed. On Saturday morning, July 14th, I called to get a status update because I was concerned about the work that was not finished. The contractor made several flimsy excuses. I waited until Monday, July 16th but no work had been completed except for the very poor irrigation work. I called two irrigation companies and they came out to inspect and quote for the correct work. OK, those may be the experts I refer to above.

One said that the original contractor could be fined for not being licensed to do irrigation work. Ah!

I contracted one of the licensed irrigation companies and they completed the work. I called the original contractor and told him what I had done. He agreed that he would do the landscaping work only. OK.

I told him that I would get a masonry contractor to put the retaining wall up and then have him do the landscaping. Since money is tight, I decided not to put a retaining wall and just have the landscaping completed. OK.

I called the original contractor on Tuesday, September 3rd and he told me that he would not do anything unless I gave him more money. We argued and then I hang up. I presume you are thinking that NONE of the work he did had value, since it was done incorrectly? Whereas he is thinking, I did $1300 worth of work, now she/he wants more landscaping, I need/deserve more money. Of course, if his work is of lttle to no value, I agree with you.

I want to file a complaint but I need a statute. No you don't, why do you say that? Breach of contract is a legal theory that would apply here - you do not need a statute for that, it existed as a legal theory for such a long time. Statutes are created to make NEW laws, not reiterate the existing ones. (However, you could compare your facts to the NJ Consumer Fraud Act, and see if you can prove fraud, see below.) You paid him $1300 for X work. You performed by paying him - he failed to perform by NOT doing the contracted for work (and/or doing something but doing it wrong).

What would that statute be in NJ?
Again, breach of contract is not a statute, it is a cause of action where you can get your money back or otherwise enforce a contract, and/or be compensated for damages resulting from his breach. For instance, if the irrigation portion was to cost $1000 if he did it, but because he screwed it up and it had to be redone by new company at the cost of $2000, then you may seek damages for that extra $1000 it cost you as a result of his breach.

Now, as a separate issue, you CAN likely contact the licensing authority and report him for his unlicenses irrigation work - they may seek to have him prosecuted, etc. But that would be different then seeking compensation for his breach of your contract. You see what I am saying?

This would be a civil matter, typicaly, vis a vis you and him. Only when it violates a criminal code may it become a criminal matter whereby upon learning of it, a DA may prosecute. For instance, let's say he had a scheme to rip off homeowners all of the state by schmoozing them, taking their deposit, then running away with it (thereby showing he never intended to do the work). This may appear to be criminal fraud/theft. But usually that can not be determined by a civil breach alone.


You will want to file suit, possibly in small claims court, against him (under $3000 in total damages?). Here is NJ's guide book.
And here are your court provided forms so you don't have to recreate the wheel and learn how to draft up the breach of contract complaint.

Now, you can assert a violation of the Consumer Fraud Act, which if proved, can allow for treble damages. You will want to review N.J.S.A 56:8-2. Attorney Millar provides a quick read that gives the basics, here: http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/in-a-nutshell-the-new-jersey-consumer-fraud-act


I hope this helps! My goal is to provide you with excellent and accurate service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Kindly rate me "excellent" when you are done. I look forward to assisting you in the future, should you have legal questions.

Sincerely,

Alexia Esq.

AlexiaEsq., Managing Attorney
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 11569
Experience: 19+ Years of Legal Practice in Criminal Law.
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