New Jersey Home Improvement Act

My company did the work, can’t get paid and is responsible for attorney’s fees if I try to collect?

What the heck?

Owning a contracting business in the state of New Jersey can be a profitable way to make a living, but only if you play by the rules. The New Jersey Contractor’s Statute and Consumer Fraud rules that is.  New Jersey boasts of having arguably the most consumer friendly protections in the nation.  This is great news for the consumer, but if you do business in New Jersey you need to become familiar with and, more importantly follow, the rules.

Here are three of the most common ways we see contractors violate the consumer fraud rules:

  1. I’m not a construction contractor, so the rules don’t apply to me, right?

Think again.  It is not just general contractors who need to follow these stringent rules. Any form of independent contractor in New Jersey who deals with home improvement needs to follow the contractor’s statute and the consumer fraud rules.  Examples of other types of contractors include landscapers, painters and restoration services companies.

  1. Don’t forget to sign on the dotted line…

Any proposals presented to a New Jersey homeowner for more than $500 dollars MUST be made AND ACCEPTED in writing. Without a written and signed proposal you are in direct violation of the Home Improvement Contractors Statute in the State of New Jersey. The written proposal must also include all information required by the law including your name and registration number, start and end dates for the work, details about the work and details about labor, material and products. Overall the compliance list is not exhaustive, but the implications of non-compliance can most certainly be devastating.  If you do not have a signed proposal, do the work and try to get paid from a savvy homeowner you may have to not only walk away from your work without payment, but pay any attorneys’ fees the homeowner incurs if you try to collect.

  1. The importance of insurance

General Liability Insurance is a vital part of owning a business, but simply being covered is not enough. You are required by law to present anyone you do work for with a copy of your general liability insurance so that they have proof of coverage. Non-compliance is a technical violation of the statute and exposes you to liability as well as risking that you will not be paid.

These rules may seems basic, and they are, but you would be surprised how often they are not followed.  Many contractors have had to walk away from both their work and payment when violations of the act occur.  If you violate the Act you can be liable for treble (triple) damages under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act as well as attorney’s fees.

Don’t put your company at risk.  Contact Bergmann & Good with any questions or to schedule a review of your proposals, contracts and procedures for compliance with the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Statute.

Undressing the Dress Code Dilemma

Because small businesses offer a more intimate and flexible type of office environment, dress codes can vary greatly depending on both the office culture and your industry. While some may prefer a more traditional or formal style, depending on your business, office space, and relationships with clients many offices observe a more casual dress code. Either is workable and it really depends on preference, but there are a few things to keep in mind as a small business owner.


Make the policy clear- and official 

If you are comfortable having your employees dressed more casually at the office you still need to have a written, official policy to avoid misunderstandings. Your policy should dictate that while the office is not strictly formal, there is still clothing that is inappropriate in any professional setting and there may be events where the dress code requires more formality.

If your office requires a more hybrid policy, clear requirements are even more important. For instance, some small law firms do not require either staff or attorneys to wear formal business attire every day, but in the event of an important client meeting or, of course, court appearances it should be made clear that formal office attire is both expected and required. All new employees, regardless of rank or industry should be made to read, understand and agree to the dress policy, including any updates or changes to an existing policy.

Have a system in place for infractions

Your office dress code policy should be easily understood and have a clear outline of what will happen if an employee fails to uphold the office standards. There is nothing more uncomfortable for management in a small business than needing to address an employee’s dress code infractions, however, in the event an employee does break the dress code or continuously fails to follow it, having a clear dress code policy will make the conversation go much more smoothly and hopefully avoid future problems.


As a small business owner, you have a great deal of influence over the kind of office culture you create, but in order to protect yourself from office disputes and just as importantly, to protect the image you want your business to present, make sure you give every employee and written and unambiguous dress code.

Bergmann & Good can help you craft an appropriate and enforceable dress code policy for your office.  Give us a call if you would like to discuss your small business needs.

To Text or Not To Text


We live in a new digital age where communication has never been faster or easier and it has streamlined any number of everyday tasks, but it also means the work day does not always end when you leave the office. Now you can get, or send, a work message at 2:00 in the morning while wearing your pajamas, but as in so many other areas of life and business, just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should. Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you consider responding to that middle of the night, work related text message.

Consider your audience

You wouldn’t address a letter to the President the same way you would a note to your college roommate so you probably shouldn’t text your boss using the same LOL and emoticons that you use with your children, husband and friends. In fact, depending on your boss you might not want to text her at all. The numerous forms of communication now available means that people are bound to prefer one over the other. Clarify. When you make a new business contact or move to a new office find out how people normally communicate and stick to that.

It is also important to remember that because texting is so fast and convenient, you can’t just think about yourself when you hit send. It may be easier for you to shoot off a text to a colleague when you have a thought about tomorrow’s meeting but if it is 8:00 at night they probably do not need to be notified immediately. If you think you will forget send a timed email to go out the next morning or write yourself a note, don’t just insert yourself into someone’s free time without cause.

Consider your message

Texting is great because it is a fast and easy way to get in touch with someone, but that means it should really only be used for simple messages that are somewhat urgent. For instance, texting your boss on the day of a meeting that the time or location has changed is a great way to communicate important and urgent information. Debriefing your colleague about the particulars of a meeting they missed on the other hand is probably still better suited to an email, phone call, or face to face conversation.

Consider your medium

Unfortunately in a business setting, it is also always important to keep in mind how any permanent form of communication could be used against you and texting is a particularly vulnerable area. Screenshots are possible with the click of a button and SMS communication also falls under the umbrella of written communications that could be used against you in the unfortunate event of a lawsuit. All electronic communications are subject to production if you are sued and reproducing those texts can be a costly proposition.  In addition, because texts also tend to be brief and condensed the message can easily be taken out of context. Again, a face to face meeting, an email, or a phone call are all safer and more sensible choices for more sensitive or complicated business conversations.

And perhaps most importantly: Always Proofread

If you do use text in your day to day business operations don’t forget the golden rule: The days of the paper dictionary may be over, but proofreading will never go out of fashion. There are entire websites devoted to disastrous examples of when autocorrect was neither helpful nor correct. Avoid any catastrophes with a simple re-read.


Like all technology, modern forms of communication like texting can be very useful, but only when used appropriately. Keep these few things in mind and you’ll be texting like a professional in no time.