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Barrister
Barrister, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 33803
Experience:  15 yrs practice, Civil, Criminal, Domestic, Realtor, Landlord 26 yrs
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A customer had us do work on their deck in their backyard.

Customer Question

A customer had us do work on their deck in their backyard. They paid half the cost up front to cover materials and labor which came to $750 cash. We had no contract with them.
The job was supposed to take 2 days & after we finished the first day they asked if we could hold off/reschedul. After a few days they called me to come over and decided they didn't want us to finish the job & asked for money back. I came back to the house to re-sand the deck since they weren't happy the first time. Again, they asked for money. I told them I didn't have anything to give them since I rented the sander (twice), purchased materials and paid my employee. I didn't make any profit off the job. On Father's Day they called and said they wanted us to finish the job. I went there under the guise that we were going to work but was confronted with an ultimatum. They wanted a full refund. They said if I don't pay them the whole amount of $750 that they will sue us for $2,000 & they want all the money back in cash and refuse to accept anything less than the $750. They just called me and texted, again. I don't know what to do. I am not licensed and insured.
Submitted: 5 months ago.
Category: Legal
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
I took photos of the work we did, and I have the rental receipts but misplaced the material receipts. Is this extortion?
Expert:  Barrister replied 5 months ago.

Hello and welcome! My name is ***** ***** I am a licensed attorney who will try my very best to help with your situation or get you to someone who can. There may be a slight delay in my responses as I research statutes or ordinances and type out an answer or reply, but rest assured, I am working on your question.

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Here is your big problem... in most NY counties home improvement contractors have to be licensed. If you aren't licensed, then you are not legally entitled to be paid for your services.... Yes, that really stinks, but the law in the State of New York is that you cannot enforce your contract against the owner, nor seek the reasonable value of the services rendered, if you are not licensed. You must have the license when you perform your work and when you commence a lawsuit to recover monies due for your work. The Courts have held that it is irrelevant whether an owner knows you are not licensed prior to entering into the contract.

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With that said some counties in NY don't require a home improvement contractor to be licensed, so I would need to know what county you were in to determine for sure..

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Further there are potential criminal penalties for engaging in home improvement without a license and it can be charged as a misdemeanor with fines ranging from $500-5,000.

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So here, depending on what county you are in, you may have to work something out with the customer so as to avoid opening a huge can of worms both civilly and potentially criminally..

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I am very sorry that I don’t have better news, but please understand that I do have an ethical and professional obligation to provide customers with legally correct answers based on my knowledge and experience, even when I know the answer doesn’t make the customer happy...

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thanks

Barrister

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