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Can a Licensed Home Improvement Contractor Enforce a Contract Entered into Under a Name Other Than the one on his License?

The New York Court of Appeals recently considered whether a licensed home improvement contractor is barred from enforcing a contract that was entered into in his individual name. The reason this became an issue was because the license was under his company’s name.

Anthony Marraccini, a licensed home improvement contractor entered into a contract with John and Pam Ryan to perform construction and maintenance work. He used his own name on the contract in spite of possessing a home improvement license under the name of  “Coastal Construction Development”. After the work was completed, a dispute arose between the parties about payment, and Marraccini sued John and Pam Ryan in his own name. John and Pam Ryan moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the home improvement license was under the company’s name and that the company was licensed to perform home improvement business, not Marraccini individually.

The Court held that although Marraccini may have violated Westchester County Code § 863.319 (1) (b), neither the Westchester County Code nor the common-law bar a violator of the County Code from bringing a lawsuit under a contract entered into under his individual name. It appeared that Coastal Construction Development and Marraccini were not separate legal entities. The case seems to indicate that the name, Coastal Construction Development, was simply a trade name. Therefore, there would be no forfeiture of the right to receive payment for the work done when the violation of the County Code seems to have been “inadvertent and harmless” and the other party was neither deceived nor prejudiced.

The Court distinguished its decision in B & F Bldg. Corp. v. Liebig (72 NY2d 689, 693) (1990) in which a contractor who was not licensed at the time the work was performed was barred from recovery. In the present case, Marraccini was already licensed when he did the work for the Ryans, and hence he is not barred from recovery. Marraccini v. Ryan, 17 N.Y.3d 83, 85, 2011 N.Y. Slip Op. 04543, 2 (2011).

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