S1032 sponsored by Connors would allow a contractor or a homeowner to bring a lawsuit in the county where the property is located if the lawsuit is under the Contractor’s Registration Act. While I am not sure why a contractor would be suing under the act, the act changes the where a plaintiff can file a lawsuit.
Normally, lawsuits over $15,000 are filed in the Law Division of the Superior Court of NJ. In the Law Division a plaintiff can file suit where they live, where a defendant lives, or where the action occurred. That would mean a contractor could file suit in Law Division in the county where their business is located. S1032 does not change this. S1032 is meant for cases under $15,000. For cases under $15,000 a lawsuit can be filed in the Special Civil Part. In the Special Civil Part a lawsuit can only be venued where at least one of the defendants residences. S1032 is meant to cover these kinds of cases. The bill statement provides that its intent is for:
Home improvement contractors who are located in the State’s beach communities have found it difficult to pursue lawsuits against homeowners who have defaulted on payments for services rendered because these homeowners do not live in the same counties as their vacation homes.
So under the bill when a contractor does work on a shore house where the owner does not live, they can do not have to go to the county where the owner lives, but can file suit in the county where they did work. The contractor could have always filed in law division no matter what the amount of damages, but the down side would be that a lawsuit in the law division can take several years before there is trial. In Special Civil Part the cases move much faster.
Since the bill only applies to non-commercial property, hopefully the courts will not consider purely rental properties as commercial. If so the bill would not apply and the contractor would be back to either filing in Law Division or filing the lawsuit in the county where the property owner lives. Another work around would be for the contractor’s contract to provide where a lawsuit may be filed.