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Law Offices of Jonathan M. Cooper

How Not Being Licensed Can Cost You Your Fee In New York

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I find it sad when people learn a lesson the hard way. On the other hand, I understand why the Court, and the New York Legislature set up the rules in this fashion: simply put, if they allowed unlicensed contractors to still get paid for work that requires a license, then that would effectively abrogate the need for the license altogether. And that's precisely what happened in Enko Construction Corp. v. Aronshtein. In this Nassau County case, the plaintiff construction company sought payment of monies owed for the home improvement work it did, but wasn't paid for, in either breach of contract or quasi-contract (i.e., the reasonable value of the services they rendered on equitable grounds, which is also referred to as "unjust enrichment" or "quantum meruit"). There was one "small" problem with its claim, though:  the plaintiff wasn't licensed to do home improvement. Thus, in dismissing the complaint, the Court held as follows: "It is well settled that a home improvement contractor who is unlicensed at the time of the performance of the work for which he or she seeks compensation forfeits the right to recover damages based on either breach of contract or quantum meruit. B & F Bldg. Corp. V. Liebig, 76 N.Y.2d 689 (1990); Flax v. Hommel, 40 A.D.3d 809 (2nd Dept. 2007)."

Category: Business Litigation


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