New York Supreme, Nassau County, Long Island
Parties: Davis, plaintiff v. Riccon Construction Corp., defendant

The law prohibits unlicensed home improvement contractors from suing to recover compensation for work already done. In representing one such contractor, attorney David Calender successfully argued in State Supreme Court in 2015 that the converse is true, that is, persons who enter into contracts with unlicensed contractors may not sue to recover any money paid to the contractor for the work done.

In that case, the plaintiff, a Long Island homeowner, hired Riccon to perform renovations on her home. Riccon had a home improvement contractor’s license from the City of New York, but not from the County of Nassau (Long Island), which was required to perform the work in this case. The plaintiff paid Riccon $20,000 and, before the work was completed, sued for a refund of the $20,000, arguing that Riccon’s lack of a Nassau County license rendered the contract under which she paid the money illegal.

Her lawyers filed a motion for summary judgment (judgment as a matter of law without a trial) in her favor. In response, Mr. Calender filed a cross-motion to dismiss her case. In support of his cross-motion, attorney Calender produced transcripts of the parties’ pre-trial deposition testimony and letters between them and third parties, demonstrating that the plaintiff was aware when she engaged Riccon that the company had only a New York City license. Mr. Calender urged the Supreme Court to dismiss the case against his client without a trial (summary judgment in favor of Riccon).

In ruling in favor of Riccon, the Supreme Court stated: “There is no dispute that the defendant Riccon is an unlicensed home improvement contractor. The plaintiff is seeking the return of $20,000 she paid for construction work on her premises. While the law is clear that an unlicensed home improvement contractor is precluded from suing to recover for work performed, it is also clear that the other party to such an illegal contract may not seek recovery of amounts already paid. Accordingly, plaintiff’s motion is denied, defendant’s cross-motion is granted and the complaint is dismissed.”