- Home inspectors have not historically been recognized as “learned professionals”, as that term is defined under N.J. case law.
- The Consumer Fraud Act as adopted by the state of N.J. has been deemed to apply to the activities of licensed home inspectors.
In a published case a homeowner contracted to purchase a residential home property. Prior to its purchase, plaintiffs hired an inspector to conduct a detailed inspection of the property.
The inspectors report concluded that “this structure appears to be very well built utilizing quality materials and professional workmanship. It is in need of only typical maintenance and upgrading.” In reliance upon this report the plaintiffs proceeded with the purchase of the property. Homeowner’s allege that “upon occupying the property they quickly learned that the house was in fact in poor condition, requiring a great deal of major repairs.” These repairs included: “replacement of the roof that leaked and was at the end of its useful life, the repair of their front deck/porch which collapsed when they moved in, the replacement of the driveway and replacement of windows and sliding glass doors to address leaks, drafts and rot from the leaks.”
The trial court dismissed the claims under the Consumer Fraud Act stating “there is no binding authority specifically addressing whether home inspectors should be considered semi-professionals exempt from the Consumer Fraud Act.
The narrow issue before the Appellate Court was whether semi-professionals such as home inspectors should be deemed to be learned professionals. A “learned professional” under New Jersey law is exempt from liability under the Consumer Fraud Act, which is a statute that is enforced by the Attorney General’s Division of Consumer Affairs.
The Appellate Court concluded that the judicially created learned professional exception protects only those professionals who have historically been recognized as “learned” based on the requirement of extensive learning or education. To the extent prior decisions, that applied the learned professional exception to “semi-professionals” regulated by a separate regulatory scheme, was reversed, including home inspectors.
To discuss your NJ consumer fraud case, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.
By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon, Niemann & Wright, a Freehold Township, Monmouth County, NJ Consumer Fraud Attorney