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Articles Posted in NJ Consumer Fraud Act

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New Jersey tenants are protected by the Anti-Eviction Act (NJSA 2A:18-61.1) and the Consumer Fraud Act (NJSA 56:8-1 et. seq.). Pursuant to Anti-Eviction Act, tenants living in illegal apartments are entitled a statutory relocation benefit of six times the monthly rent (NJSA 2A:18-61.1(g)(2) & NJSA 2A:18-61.1h). On the Consumer Fraud Act side, consumers are protected from unconscionable commercial practices which cause the consumer to suffer an “ascertainable loss.” Violations of the Consumer Fraud Act can trigger a consumer’s right to triple damages; an enhancing remedy in line with the relocation benefit. In the context of illegal apartments, can the Consumer Fraud Act and Anti-Eviction Act combine to give tenants two equally powerful remedies? The answer turns on how the damage to the tenant is characterized.
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Local rent control laws are an important part of maintaining an affordable housing supply in densely populated areas. Prior posts explained the basics of rent control and some nuances between cities. Generally, tenants who pay rent in excess of the rent control rent (the “legal rent”) have two remedies. The first is an application to the local rent control board (sometimes called a rent leveling board) for a credit. The credit allows a tenant to pay a reduced rent going forward until the tenant “catches up” with the overcharge. The second remedy is much more powerful. Violations of rent control ordinances are actionable under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (the “CFA”). Under the CFA, a rent control overcharge may entitle a tenant to triple damages and mandatory attorney’s fees. The principle that a rent control violation is also a consumer fraud violation comes from an Appellate Division decision called Wozniak v. Pennella, 373 N.J. Super. 445 (App. Div. 2004).
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New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act (the “CFA”)is among the most powerful consumer protection statutes in the country. The CFA provides for treble damages and attorney’s fees in cases where the Defendant is found liable for an unlawful practice. One method of establishing liability for an unlawful practice is by showing a violation of a regulation promulgated under the CFA. Car repair and body shops are subject to CFA regulation. Consumers who believe they have been harmed or “ripped off” by a mechanic or body shop should be aware of these important regulations.

N.J.A.C. §13:45A-26C.2 (the “Auto Repairs Deceptive Practices Regulations”) sets forth an extensive list of what practices are deemed deceptive and therefore unlawful under the CFA. Many of the Auto Repairs Deceptive Practices Regulations control conduct related to what a consumer is entitled to know and authorize before a mechanic or body shop undertakes a repair. Failing to inform the customer as required by the regulations can expose a mechanic or body shop to significant liability.
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