It is a well known and long upheld principle in New York that where work requires a license, and the plaintiff does not have such a license, the plaintiff is not entitled to recover payment under any theory pursuant to CPLR 3015(e).
A New York City contractor recently learned this lesson the hard way in Maximar Contr., Inc. v. Mehta. There, the Court noted that “if a plaintiff contractor is required to be licensed by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs…its complaint shall allege that it is licensed as such.” Where the complaint fails to allege the contractor is properly licensed, then the complaint must be dismissed. Pursuant to the New York City Administrative Code “no person shall…perform or obtain a home improvement contract as a contractor…from an owner without a license therefor.” The Court found that the plaintiff contractor was a home improvement contractor within the meaning of New York City Administrative Code Section 20-386(2). As such, the complaint was dismissed.
While this may be a harsh remedy, it is a lesson for anyone performing work in where a home improvement license is required. If you are not sure whether your work requires a license, look into it an get an opinion from the licensing entity (or at least an attorney) first. If you don’t, you may be out of luck.