Matt vs Sonny’s Gates – Case

In a recent case before me as an arbitrator in Small Claims Court, the claimant, a young man who had just opened a pet store in Manhattan, decided to put up a security gate in order to protect his investment in the store’s contents.

To protect his privacy, I will call him “Matt”.  

Matt did not know that he was about to get caught up in New York City’s rigid permit system.

Matt’s contract with the Gate company (here called “Sonny’s Gates”) required Sonny to get the necessary permits from the NYC Department of Buildings and the Landmarks Commission.

However, Sonny did not get the permits and did not tell Matt before he installed the gate.  

For reasons of his own, perhaps tempted by hubris on Sonny’s part, his lack of experience with NYC’s permit process or the rich contract price, Sonny apparently decided to install the gate first and leave the problems of the permits for later.

As soon as the gate was installed, Matt was summoned to court and told that he had to take down the offending gate before his request for permission would even be considered, and he was then fined $5,000 for violating the permit law.  

Matt then decided to hire an “expeditor”, an expert familiar with the labyrinth of NYC permit regulations, who then walked Matt through the entire permit process for a fee of $2,000. This became necessary because Sonny failed to get the permits.

At this point, Matt was out of pocket about $7,500 over and above the original cost of the gate.

You Decide.

To see my deci­sion click on the link below. Deci­sions


6 thoughts on “Matt vs Sonny’s Gates – Case

  1. Since obtaining pertinent city permits was part of Matt’s contract with Sonny, the $5,000 fine that Matt had to pay the city should be reimbursed by Sonny.

    The additional expeditor’s fee has nothing to do with Sonny and should not be considered in the award by Arbitration Man.

    Lesson to Matt: inspect the permits (they are issued to you, not the vendor) before work begins.

  2. There are many small business owners in NYC who are not made aware of onerous permit laws for property improvements which do not interfere with safety. Contractors who work in NYC however, should be aware of and comply with regulations … and should make purchasers aware.
    I side with Matt but would have given him $7500 if possible.

  3. It has always been my experience that ultimately you (the purchaser of the service) is responsible for the actions of the provider of the service. Matt is guilty of not doing his homework on two fronts. First and foremost for not doing the research necessary to know about permits ( he does live in NYC ) and secondly for not hiring a professional that would take care of them for him. It should be common knowledge that permits are needed for everything in NYC and are posted as the work is being started and completed.

    • I agree with you that Matt “not doing his homework” was the main cause of his predicament. Matt learned a hard lesson, but one that he will probably remember in the future.

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