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Can I file a lien in a county where I am not licensed?

New YorkRight to Lien

I have a New York - Nassau County home improvement license. I did a residential job in New York - Suffolk County for a G.C. He has a Suffolk County license. He was thrown off the job after my work was completed (to satisfaction). Homeowner is not paying G.C. and told me I had to get my money from the G.C. because they don't have a contract with me. Can I put a lien on the project even though I am not licensed in that county?

1 reply

Sep 28, 2018
I'm very sorry to hear about that. As you likely know, New York can be incredibly strict with licensing requirements, and those requirements vary county by county (and sometimes even city by city within a county). In Suffolk County, the licensing requirements when working on residential projects are pretty expansive. While many counties only require licensing for those under direct contract with the owner, Suffolk County appears to require county licensure of all parties working on residential jobs. Looking at the definition of "home improvement contracting" (found here), there does not appear to be a distinction in the requirements for a party directly hired by the owner and a party subcontracting with another contractor on the job. This is all to say that it appears even a subcontractor of a properly licensed general contractor must be licensed by the county in Suffolk County. Failure to maintain this licensure may prevent a filed mechanics lien from being valid and enforceable and could prevent other legal remedies against the owner. Of course, even when filing a valid mechanics lien might not be possible, there are other options that could lead to payment. For one, sending a Notice of Intent to Lien often compels payment - regardless of whether a mechanics lien could be validly filed. It acts as a sort of "lien warning", and because a lien is such a drastic remedy, a Notice of Intent to Lien must be taken seriously. You can learn more about the document here. Further, if a threat to lien is ineffective or undesirable, sending a demand letter demanding payment and/or threatening potential legal action can also go a long way toward payment - and sending one to the prime contractor and one to the owner could maximize the chances of getting paid. Granted, if legal action becomes necessary, it's worth remembering that recovery options may be limited by a lack of licensure, and reaching out to a local construction attorney could help provide clarity as to what actions may be available.
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