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What Constitutes Home Improvement Under The Administrative Code of City of New York?

In Great Am. Restoration Services, Inc. v. Patricia Lenti, et al., 2012 NY Slip Op 03140 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept., April 24, 2012), the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division (Second Judicial Department), addressed whether, under New York City’s Administrative Code, a contractor is required to possess a license to perform work on a house.

The facts were straightforward. After a fire at the defendants’ house, they hired Plaintiff to temporarily “cover holes in the roof, remove water from the premises, remove both salvageable and unsalvageable personal property, store such property, and remove debris.” Id. at 2.  One of the issues was whether the Plaintiff needed to be licensed under the NY Administrative Code.

In that case, the Supreme Court (Nassau County) had granted the Contractor’s (“Plaintiff”) motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability in an action to recover damages for breach of contract.  The lower Court also denied defendants’ cross motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7).  The Plaintiff appealed.

The Appellate Division upheld the lower Court’s decision because the Appellate Division felt Plaintiff established its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Id.  Plaintiff submitted the contract between the parties that laid out the work that Plaintiff was to perform.  The contract clearly stated that defendants would be responsible for any charges not covered by the defendants’ insurance policy.  Plaintiff also submitted proof that it satisfactorily completed the work and never got paid for that work pursuant to the contract.  Id.

The Appellate Court stated that since the defendants failed to “raise a triable issue of fact in response [to the evidence Plaintiff submitted for review], the Supreme Court properly granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability.” Id.   The Appellate Division also stated that the lower Court properly determined that the work Plaintiff performed on the defendants’ home did not constitute “home improvement” as defined in Administrative Code of City of New York (“Code”) § 20-386(2).  Under § 20-386(2), “home improvement” is defined as

“The construction, repair, replacement, remodeling, alteration, conversion, rehabilitation, renovation, modernization, improvement, or addition to any land or building, or that portion thereof which is used or designed to be used as a residence or dwelling place and shall include but not be limited to the construction, erection, replacement, or improvement of driveways, swimming pools, terraces, patios, landscaping, fences, porches, garages, fallout shelters, basements and other improvements to structures or upon land which is adjacent to a dwelling house.  “Home improvement” shall not include (i) the construction of a new home or building or work done by a contractor in compliance with a guarantee of completion of a new building project, (ii) the sale of goods or materials by a seller who neither arranges to perform no performs directly or indirectly any work or labor in connection with the installation of or application of the goods or materials, (iii) residences owned by or controlled by the state or any municipal subdivision thereof, or (iv) painting or decorating of a building, residence, home or apartment, when not incidental or related to home improvement work as herein defined.  Without regard to the extent of affixation, “home improvement” shall also include the installation of central heating or air conditioning systems, central vacuum cleaning systems, storm windows, awnings or communication systems.”

Administrative Code of City of New York § 20-386 (2).

As determined by the lower Court, since Plaintiff did not perform work that rose to the level of that constituting home improvement, it was not required to possess a license pursuant to the Code § 20-387(a).  Consequently, Plaintiff was not required to plead that it was duly licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs of the City of New York as a home improvement contractor.  This finding justified the lower Court’s denial of defendants’ cross motion to dismiss the complaint “pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a)(7) for failure to plead that it was so licensed.”  Great Am. Restoration Services, Inc. v. Patricia Lenti, et al.,  2012 NY Slip Op 03140 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept., April 24, 2012).

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