A recent ruling issued by the Supreme Court, County of Nassau, serves as a reminder to New York contractors performing residential work of the importance and necessity in having a home improvement license if you need legal action to pursue payment on the project.
In this homeowner victory, represented by The Law Offices of John Caravella, P.C. in a matter entitled Holistic Homes ,LLC v. Alan B. Greenfield and Hudson City Savings Bank, the court found unconvincing the various excuses presented in its attempt to portray itself as anything other than a home improvement contractor pursuant to the Nassau County Administrative Code.
The matter concerned work performed on the owner's property to remedy damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. When a dispute as to payment arose, the contractor filed its lien on the owner's property and commenced legal action to seek recovery on its lien.
When challenged on the status of its license, the contractor then attempted to explain that it was not on the project as a contractor, rather based on some alleged personal form, as "fraternal brother", which failed to be persuasive nor did it relieve the contractor's statutory licensing requirement. The Court was further reluctant to excuse the statutory licensing requirement when the work performed was emergency repair work as made necessary across Long Island resulting from Hurricane Sandy.
Subsequently through litigation, the contractor admitted that it was not licensed as a home improvement contractor in Nassau County.
Without having a valid Nassau County Home Improvement Contractor's License, contractor's complaint for damages was dismissed and the lien vacated.
"Thus, a contractor who does not possess a license required by local law may not enforce a home improvement contract. This is true irrespective of whether the suit sounds in breach of contract or quantum meruit (Al-Sullami v Broskie, 40 AD3d 102[2d Dept. 2007]) or a claim made in the context of a lien foreclosure (Ellis v Gold, 204 AD2 261 [2d Dept. 1994] or an arbitration. Al-Sullami v. Broskie, supra.
Not even the necessity of prompt remedial efforts needed in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is enough for the strict requirement for a licensure to seek legal action on any claims for payment.
New York contractors are reminded of the importance to regularly ensure that their licenses, contracts, and insurance coverages are properly tailored to serve the needs of your business and project types.
In addition to litigating construction issues, this office routinely provides review and consultation services to contractors to ensure their contracts, business practices as well as their required licenses and insurance policies are in proper working order or identify areas of potential exposure which could be better managed.
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The author, John Caravella Esq., is a construction attorney and formerly practicing project architect at The Law Offices of John Caravella, P.C., representing architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, and owners in all phases of contract preparation, litigation, and arbitration across New York and Florida. He also serves as an arbitrator to the American Arbitration Association Construction Industry Panel. Mr. Caravella can be reached by email: John@LIConstructionLaw.com or (516) 462-7051.
This is a general information article and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Readers are encouraged to seek counsel from a construction lawyer for advice on a particular circumstance.