Hedge fund millionaire worms out of $400K Shelter Island landscaping bill on technicality

April 19, 2013 11:45AM

What might have been a minor dispute over an unpaid bill has resulted in an extended legal battle and a lien against a multimillion dollar Shelter Island home, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Hedge fund principal Melissa Ko and her husband, publisher S. Douglas Hahn, hired horticulturalist Matthew Daly in 2011 to build a driveway and landscape their yard. But not long ago, the couple went to court so they wouldn’t have to pay Daly because he doesn’t have a home improvement license, mandated by Suffolk County.

Daly sued Ko and Hahn for more than $400,000 for the work that he did at the house, on Gardiners Bay Drive, and filed a lien against the home. Ko’s lawsuit includes the accusation that that Daly’s lien was “a willful exaggeration.”

A state judge last month ruled that Daly is owed for the landscaping but not for the cost of building the driveway, which he put at about $130,000, because for that work he would have needed the license.

Ko and Hahn bought two adjacent lots for a total of $4.5 million in 2009, demolished the homes and built one from the ground up, the Journal said.

Daly told the Journal that because landscapers come to construction jobs last, they often get the short end of the stick.

“We are the ones to hear the sob story at the end on how much money they spent,” he said. [WSJ] –Guelda Voien