Where there is no contractual privity with a property owner, a subcontractor cannot sue an owner for unpaid work performed except under the Construction Lien Law. Consequently, in the event that the lien fund available under the Construction Lien Law is insufficient to make a subcontractor whole, the subcontractor can only seek additional payment from the general contractor who hired them, not the owner. In a recent matter before the Appellate Division, a landscaping contractor was owed $87,696.40 from the general contractor, who failed to make payment. The landscaper filed a lien against the property and prevailed on such claim. However, since there was only a limited lien fund available, the landscaper only received its pro rata share of $35,300.94 from the lien fund, leaving an unpaid balance of over $50,000. The landscaper then attempted to recover the remaining balance from the property owner directly by asserting quasi-contractal claims in the Law Division, but the matter was ultimately dismissed. The Appellate Division affirmed such dismissal, stating that, "New Jersey law is clear that subcontractors who are not paid by the general contractor who hired them cannot sue the property owners who they lack privity." (Ash Maple, LLC, et. al. v. Jeral Construction Company, Inc., et. al.)
Peter J. Vazquez, Jr.