Can a Subcontractor Without Home Improvement License Sue a Contractor for Payment ?
In Corcoran Marble Co. v. Clark Constr. Corp. (155 Misc 2d 49 [App Term, 1st Dept 1993]) a subcontractor sued a contractor for payment under a residential renovation contract.
The contractor raised the defense that the subcontractor did not have a home improvement license and was therefore not entitled to payment under a home improvement contract.
The Appellate Term, First Department, held that the defendant contractor was not a member of the class of individuals that was intended to be protected by the Administrative Code, namely "owners."
Noting the arguably broad statutory definition of that term the court explained:
"The use of the phrase 'any other person' in section 20-386 (4) follows words of specific import, namely, 'homeowner, condominium unit owner, tenant', making application of the rule of ejusdem generis appropriate.
This rule of statutory construction requires the court to limit general language of a statute or ordinance by specific phrases which precede it (McKinney's Cons Laws of NY, Book 1, Statutes 239, at 407-411)." (Corcoran Marble Co. v. Clark Constr. Corp., 155 Misc 2d 49, 50, supra.)
The court then went on to state, "It is clear from the definitional language employed that the person seeking to invoke the license requirements of the ordinance must actually reside in the dwelling unit in which the work is to be performed" ( Corcoran Marble Co. v. Clark Constr. Corp., supra, at 51).