Do we need to get a permit to rehab houses if my partner is a contractor?

19 Replies

Hi BP community, I have a quick question about permits and licensing. Me and my partner are looking for rundown properties in Jersey City to rehab and renovate. He is a contractor in NY but not licensed in NJ. I'm just wondering if we need to get a permit or license to do the job or can we just go in and do the work ourselves? Thank you.

@Warren Lim Rules are different from place to place, but generally speaking there are two types of "triggers" for when you need a permit. When repairs exceed a certain dollar value and when changes are made like adding an electrical circuit or moving a wall or moving plumbing, like rearranging a bathroom as examples.

Check with your local code enforcement authority before they show up when a local contractor calls in to report an unpermitted rehab that they didn't get a shot at. Your inspections after such an encounter won't be a pleasant experience. You don't want to get on the inspection regime's bad side, by trying to save a few bucks on permits.

If the work being performed requires a permit, it requires a permit. Only a NJ licensed contractor can pull it.

This may be locally different, though this is the most likely case for anywhere.

Permits- A permit is required for certain types of work no matter who does it. Even an OO working on their own home is required to get a permit for the type of work they are doing. It generally has nothing to do with licensing from that aspect. You must be a contractor to pull a permit, but generally there is an exception to this for OO doing work on their own home allowing them to pull their own permits.

Licensing- A license is required to pull permits and work on any property that is not your own. As I mentioned above the permits are required in either case the difference becomes an OO that is not a licensed electrician is generally allowed to do their own electrical work as long as they pull the permit and have it inspected ect. To hire someone else to do it they technically must be licensed.

NOO properties in every jurisdiction I have ever heard of are required to use a licensed contractor because by definition it is not your personal dwelling so you are not allowed as an unlicensed individual to pull the permit and do the work.

All that being said it seems to me with your scenario that what would be prudent would be to have your friend get licensed in NJ and then he can legally operate within the state. Generally states have some way to gain reciprocity (honor other states licensees) or to get licensed easier if you are already licensed elsewhere. In order to find out for sure you'll need to call the local "Department of Professional Regulation" or whatever it is called in your state.

@Warren Lim I would think this would be a question your partner would have told you the answer to and if he didn't say yes or it depends it would have raised a red flag in my book as to who I would trust doing business with. In most cases the answer will be yes, especially in Jersey City. Some municipalities make you require to take out a permit for changing a toilet. Be careful. Find out the rules and abide by them.

In order to pull permits in the state of New Jersey you need to be a licensed contractor. A homeowner can pull there own building permits in some cases but all electrical, plumbing, and HVAC work needs to be pulled by a licensed contractor. Good luck!

@Stephen Earley I've pulled my own electrical and plumbing on single family. On multifamily you're correct its not allowed. On anything attached to another residence its not allowed.

You always pull a permit. If you are a contractor you must be licensed. If someone buys your flip or rental often potential buyers will ask the town if a permit was taken out to make sure the work was properly done and inspected. No cutting corners here. Plus the neighbors may call the town if they don't see the yellow permit card. If that happens your unlicensed contractor partner will get fined for no license. That makes good headlines in the news. Bottom line; be professional and do the right thing with no shortcuts and pull the permit with your licensed contractors number on the permit.

This will all vary by local law. I've rehabbed somewhere around 30 properties, and never pulled a general construction permit. I can remember maybe two times that we had to pull an electrical permit.

@Warren Lim , as @Darren Sager mentioned, you can pull your own permit as the homeowner depending on the dwelling and the work to be performed. I pulled my own permit to build a small deck. As @Stephen Earley mentioned, if the work to be performed requires a licensed contractor, the contractor has to pull the permit. I always stay clear from contractors who push the responsibility of getting a permit on the homeowner. I would also put a clause in any contract that states in expressed terms that permits are to be pulled by the contractor and evidence of them being closed prior to moving to the next phase of the project.

With your partner being a contractor, he should know fully what needs permits pulled and how to go about doing so. If he is unaware of the particular state/townships regulations, he should know about checking into those also.

Just because you're a contractor does not exempt you from pulling a permit if the area you're working in requires it. It doesn't matter where he's licensed at. So the answer is yes you must pull a permit.

In many areas you can pull most building permits as the home owner, however, if they dig into the details that your doing the work to flip and its a business venture, they could potentially require you to have a license to pull the permit. It's probably just a simple application and a fee to get the license.

Thanks everyone for all the quick responses. May I know what's the best way to find out what are the permits or licenses required to work on a rehab? Some contractors are not fluent in English so it might be challenging for them to understand the different rules in different municipalities/counties.

Call the building department of the city where the house is located. Ask questions. Or, describe what you're trying to do and ask if permits are required. Lack of English fluency won't help a bit if you get caught doing unpermitted work.

Around here an owner can only pull permits on the house they live in. And they can't sell for a year after completing the work. For all other properties either the licensed contractor (e.g., a plumber or HVAC contractor) or a general contractor for big projects. Even with a GC pulling the permits, certain trades have to be performed by licensed contractors. Licenses are city-by-city plus state level for certain trades. Anyone can become a GC by taking a test in the city. There are schools where you can do the prep work to take the tests. That's something you might want to consider if you're going to be doing this a lot.

Generally I've found that building departments will work with you if you make an effort to do things correctly. If you try to skirt the rules and get caught they will make your life difficult.

Hey Warren,

Hope you are well.

It seems like the message is clear: you should contact the local building department:

30 Montgomery Street

Room 412 (Main Office)
Jersey City, NJ 07302
Tel: Main - (201) 547-5055
Tel: RRC Only - (201) 547-4218
Fax: (201) 547-5270

Raymond Meyer, Construction Code Official

Also, I noticed that they have this program which might be of interest:

Home In Need Of Repairs Or Rehabilitation?

The Homeowner Rehabilitation Program
has monies available as forgiveable
loans for eligible households!Click here

Thanks @Kenneth Wong and @Jon Holdman for the helpful information, really appreciate it guys.

In NJ you can pull any permit for any trade as long as you are an owner occupied, unattached single family property owner. If not, be prepared to pay through the nose if you need to get permits & licensed trades in there. Your partner needs a Home Improvement Contractors license & insurance in NJ to even paint or even to be a handyman. It's crazy here in NJ.

That sounds serious. Is there a way to work under a firm temporarily instead of going through all the permits application/licensing process?

Just about everything you touch probably technically requires a permit. For the most part the licenses are electrical, plumbing and home improvement (everything else).

Tell the building department what your doing and ask what the code compliance are. Your contractor should know the basics, if they don't then you should look into a new contractor because they don't know what their doing. Code compliance is almost as important as doing the work.

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