Friday, April 17, 2009

Unlicensed Contractor Cannot File Mechanic's Lien

In Racwel v. Mandfredi, the Appellate Division recently reminded everyone that in many New York Counties (if not all), if you don't have a home improvement license, you cannot file a claim for unpaid money due to you for home improvement work and you also cannot file a mechanic's lien. The Racwel case involved the Westchester County Administrative Code which, like many local codes and regulations, requires contractors that are engaging in "home improvement work" to be licensed. 

Significantly, many jurisdictions require a license issued by that particular jurisdiction.  For example, in Racwel the contractor needed a Westchester County home improvement license.   Other jurisdictions across New York, including, but not limited to, New York City, Nassau County and Suffolk County, require home improvement contractors to be licensed.  Each jurisdiction requires its own license and being licensed in one jurisdiction does not satisfy the licensing requirement in other jurisdictions.  In other words, the law as it currently stands, and it is a law that I disagree with, requires a contractor licensed in New York City to hold a Suffolk County home improvement license to perform home improvement services in Suffolk County and so on.  Making it even more difficult for contractors is that some smaller jurisdictions, within the larger jurisdiction, requires its own home improvement license.  For example, the Town of South Hampton, which is in Suffolk County, requires its own license.  So a contractor that holds a Suffolk County home improvement license must also be licensed by the Town of South Hampton in order to provide home improvement services there.  This is a statutory scheme that is clearly focused on generating local revenue more than anything else. 

The simple lesson is to be careful when performing work that could be considered home improvement. If you are not sure, contact an attorney.

Vincent T. Pallaci is a partner at the New York law firm of Kushnick Pallaci, PLLC where his practice focuses primarily on the area of construction law.  He can be reached at (631) 752-7100 or

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