Should Our Contractor Pull our Building Permit or Should We?

25 Replies

When doing any remodeling work on a property we’ve taken back, we’ve always pulled our own building permits and then had our designated contractor do the work. However, I recently read something about this and it said that the contractor should be the one to pull the permits. The reason given was that the person who pulls the permit is the one responsible for making sure the job is done correctly.

We’ve had contractors who have insisted that we pull our own permits to save them time. But what if a worker is injured or damages someone else’s personal property while doing the work? Does the liability fall on us or on the contractor if we pulled our own permit? Please share any experience you’ve had with this

It would depend on many factors, and could vary from state to state, city to city, but "generally speaking" 1. When you pull the permits does it ask the name of the "general contractor" or 2. Are you acting as the general contractor, hiring all subs, etc.? If you hire a "licensed general contractor", they are responsible for everything that happens under their watch. If on the other hand you are acting as the general contractor, then you are responsible for all the work and liability under you. But, whoever is on the permit is the one that is responsible for things getting done to obtain the notice of completion and or to obtain occupancy. PLEASE NOTE: If you aren't sure who is responsible for what, get advice from your attorney so as not to open yourself up to a costly liability lawsuit.

In my area you have to be a licensed General Contractor to pull permits unless you're pulling them for your residence. So in a similar situation (property taken back from a defaulted loan) we hired a GC. Same with rentals. An exception is for a specific project like a furnace or roof. Then the contractor can pull the permit.

My experience is a contractor who wants you to pull permits they're trying to avoid licensing requirements or responsibility for your project or both.

Thanks for the feedback.

Yep, if the contractor won't pull permits, get another comntractor!

Remember that in most places, the permit recipient is responsible for passing inspections with code enforcement. If you're personally not doing the work, why would you want that added responsibility?

As others have stated, contractors who won't do this will probably be cutting corners in other aspects.

I am not at the re-habbing point yet, so excuse my ignorance.

1.) Isn't pulling your own permits, an advantage if you need to get rid of the contractor?

2.) I am assuming it does not matter if the home is owner-occupied VS. investment property when it comes to pulling your own permits?

Originally posted by Keith Lutz:
2.) I am assuming it does not matter if the home is owner-occupied VS. investment property when it comes to pulling your own permits?

In my area, absolutely not true. If its owner occupied, the owner can pull permits. If its an investment - rental or fix-and-flip - owner cannot pull permits. I learned this lesson the hard way when I tried to pull permits on my first rental fix-up project. You need to have a valid GC license in the city to pull permits unless you're the owner and living in the house.

Originally posted by Jon Holdman:
Originally posted by Keith Lutz:
2.) I am assuming it does not matter if the home is owner-occupied VS. investment property when it comes to pulling your own permits?

In my area, absolutely not true. If its owner occupied, the owner can pull permits. If its an investment - rental or fix-and-flip - owner cannot pull permits. I learned this lesson the hard way when I tried to pull permits on my first rental fix-up project. You need to have a valid GC license in the city to pull permits unless you're the owner and living in the house.

Same here in Little Rock. Owner occupied needs to be underlined. Don't try to be cute and pull a permit unless you will live there.
Don

If a GC is hiring all the subs, can he pull electrical and plumbing permits also or does an electrican/plumber have to pull their own?

Originally posted by Shanequa J.:
If a GC is hiring all the subs, can he pull electrical and plumbing permits also or does an electrican/plumber have to pull their own?

It depends on the jurisdiction. In some places, a general renovation permit will cover the mechanicals and in some place, only the specialty trade can pull the permit (on top of the renovation permit, if needed).

Here's another idea for you that I have been toying with--become a licensed contractor yourself.

My city requires a $10,000 bond (which might cost you $200/yr depending on credit), and a $125 app fee. You only need to have a state cert if you are doing plumbing, electrical or architecture. I plan to do this so I can get my team of Amish subs to work in the city.

Chris C. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. Most states require verifiable experience, a test, bond, and insurance. Once you become a licensed contractor, you step into being held to a much higher standard and have more liability.

i haven't read all of the posts so if this has been covered sorry..

In California you're only allowed so many projects intended to be resold as the owner without a contractors license. I would have reservation about whether you were breaking contract license law which is criminal.

Secondly in my area the jurisdiction granting the permits also confirms workman's comp insurance and active license status. Two things a home owner may be unaware of.

On a major rehab I think it paramount to have a license attached.

@Karen M. True enough; any decision requires you to do a calculation of cost versus benefit. I carry general liability insurance for all my businesses that might experience loss in excess of investment.

With respect to the law of building codes, permitting and contractors, I have to be frank--in Ohio, it is nothing more than a hidden tax, a protective tariff, and a way for the municipality to veto any development or renovation that its architectural review board subjectively considers "undesirable." It has very little to do with ensuring that contractors are properly qualified to do the work. There are no educational requirements for contractors unless they engage in electrical, plumbing, and a handful of other very specialized trades. In this respect, these laws are more like registrations than actual trade licenses (and are referred to as such in the city code).

Of course, your mileage may vary as these laws change drastically from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. One should always be 110% informed before pulling the trigger on anything like this. I will be doing it because my Amish contractors don't want to deal with the city themselves for licensure.

Chris C. I understand your point. The fact that the requirements for getting an original license in California does make a person show some qualifications, and knowlege of the laws, etc., it doesn't guarantee anything. As with all licensing laws, it is a tool for the government to extract fees. Once licensed, there is no oversight of contractors, realtors, or doctors for that matter.

In California these geniuses put all the license information online, making it easy for people to check, but it also makes it easy for others to rip off contractor license numbers, addresses, etc. and operate under their license illegally! Crazy.

Some states just assume that if you get a permit, and pass all the inspections along the way, the house will be build according to code, etc., therefore; there's no purpose in licensing. For the construction portion of the job that's true. However; knowing contract law, liens, etc. does have value.

Hey folks, the guy who pulls the permit is responsible for the job, the only exception as mentioned is for an owner occupied living in the property as they have certain rights to make repairs. This will likely stop at electrical and plumbing and some places roofs, due to the danger to the public, or the next property owner. Some places don't even inspect, most do, and if there is an issue it falls on the one who pulled the permit as well as the owner.

If your contractor does a bad job and you pulled the permit, no skin off his back if he walks away, other than you taking him to court, if you can find him. If his work fails and he pulled the permit, he will be answering to the authorities, and he may not be able to file another permit for a job if he doesn't address his bad work.

Can you squeeze a contractor hard enough to keep him from getting other work? I doubt it, so as a good point of leverage for any contractor, have them pull the permit. It may not solve all problems but at least you may have the authoritieson your side if things blow up.

If you want to put siding on yourself, pull the permit, if you hire someone to do it, have them pull it.

I'm glad to say that in Washington it is still possible for the owner to perform the work on his/her home or investment property. I'm still able to pull electrical, plumbing and general building permits. I'm not 100% sure about HVAC work though I think the owner can still pull a permit and do the work for this area as well.

It is necessary to designate the general contractor or specify that you are the owner of the property when getting permits though.

Like several have said though, if you are planning to have a general contractor do the work it is better that you have them get the permits. I would also verify that all inspections were signed off on and that a final inspection has passed.

Personally in my neck of the woods if you have roofing work done by a contractor you want to watch them closely to be sure that the work is done properly. There are many times they will cover up bad spots with making the corrections that should be made.

In Florida you can do it either way. you as the owner can pull one and supervise your subs or workers or have a GC pull the permit.

If you have a GC you want him to pull the permits. The number one reason is liablilty. if someone get hurt on your property are you prepared to cover their medical expenses and damages they suffered? In Florida and I suspect most states if someone is working for you they will be considered an employee and you as the employer are required to collect and pay the taxes and workers comp insurance for this person. If you dont it not only is illegal and now you are open to huge liablity claims god forbd someone slip and falls or shoots a nail through their hand. Then this person claims they are no longer able to work due to injury.

The majority of work that rehab requires you want to understand whos working on your property and that they are qualified. you can always save money doing things yourself and hiring tradesmen however this is a huge risk. you need to understand this and determine your level of assets and how much you are personal assets or at risk.

The second problem in the state of florida is that if you as a homeowner pull and do your own work you may not resell the property for a period of time which i cant recall but may be for a period of two to five years depending on the cost of the work.

Hire sub contractors who are licensed and insured. and never take their word for it. You always want to ask for them to provide proof of insurance and ask for a piece of paper naming you as additional insured under their policy. this simply lets their insurance company know that they are doing work on your site. This proves they have coverage and if the GC doesnt already have this policy in place will pay his insurance co depending on the job say 150 bucks to name you as additionally insured. Workers comp is a a different insurance and you need to verify they have this as well. ALso undersand your homeowners insurance will cover say if your neighbor gets hurt on your property but would not cover cover construction worker getting hurt.

So understand your risks, understand your goals, and understand your state laws. if you are flipping you dont want to tie the property up and not be able to resell it. if you are just starting out and dont have alot of assets then its probably worth the risk. If you have sizable assets then its probably not worth the risk.

Originally posted by @JOE SNEAD:
In Florida you can do it either way. you as the owner can pull one and supervise your subs or workers or have a GC pull the permit.
If you have a GC you want him to pull the permits. The number one reason is liablilty. if someone get hurt on your property are you prepared to cover their medical expenses and damages they suffered? In Florida and I suspect most states if someone is working for you they will be considered an employee and you as the employer are required to collect and pay the taxes and workers comp insurance for this person. If you dont it not only is illegal and now you are open to huge liablity claims god forbd someone slip and falls or shoots a nail through their hand. Then this person claims they are no longer able to work due to injury.
The majority of work that rehab requires you want to understand whos working on your property and that they are qualified. you can always save money doing things yourself and hiring tradesmen however this is a huge risk. you need to understand this and determine your level of assets and how much you are personal assets or at risk.
The second problem in the state of florida is that if you as a homeowner pull and do your own work you may not resell the property for a period of time which i cant recall but may be for a period of two to five years depending on the cost of the work.
Hire sub contractors who are licensed and insured. and never take their word for it. You always want to ask for them to provide proof of insurance and ask for a piece of paper naming you as additional insured under their policy. this simply lets their insurance company know that they are doing work on your site. This proves they have coverage and if the GC doesnt already have this policy in place will pay his insurance co depending on the job say 150 bucks to name you as additionally insured. Workers comp is a a different insurance and you need to verify they have this as well. ALso undersand your homeowners insurance will cover say if your neighbor gets hurt on your property but would not cover cover construction worker getting hurt.
So understand your risks, understand your goals, and understand your state laws. if you are flipping you dont want to tie the property up and not be able to resell it. if you are just starting out and dont have alot of assets then its probably worth the risk. If you have sizable assets then its probably not worth the risk.

 

very informative. You answered a lot of questions I had not even thought of. Thank you
Originally posted by @Jon Holdman :
My experience is a contractor who wants you to pull permits they're trying to avoid licensing requirements or responsibility for your project or both.

My experience as well...

I haven't read every response, so this may have already been answered, but here in the city of Milwaukee, homeowners can pull their own construction permits (but not electrical or plumbing permits, those must be pulled by a licensed master only) or the firm can pull them, but only firms that have gotten a city of Milwaukee contractor license. (which is just really one more way that the tax crazy city of Milwaukee sticks it to businesspeople to get a few more bucks!) As it was explained to me though by an inspector, the homeowner should really have the contractor pull the permit because if anything is not done up to code or correctly, then the contractor is on the hook for fixing it, while if the homeowner pulls it, HE is on the hook for correcting the problems, which as we all know very well, can end up being VERY costly at times!

For those GC homeowners / investors interested in hiring subcontractors to perform work in California, while workers compensation insurance may not be required, personal injury liability may still be against you for injuries on the jobsite. The key to navigating these "maybes" in your scenario will be evaluating 1) whether legally there is an employer - employee relationship instead of independent contractor for the WC and 2) your level of control over the safety of the work site for PI.

- References

  1. http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/faq_independentcontractor.htm
  2. http://www.mftb.com/news-and-events/california-court-of-appeal-expands-general-contractor-liability-for-jobsite-injuries-sustained-by-employees-of-subcontractors-and-subtier-subcontractors/

I'm neither contractor nor sub, nor rehabbing to flip.  I wanted repairs done to my property( a smaller home next to mine) having a new roof put on or repairing the damaged part but since it's been so long the individual told me that it would be a repairing taking it off replacing the sides I guess it's the eves, repairing any other damage to the decking and was told they could do it in like two days  since the square footage was so small. I had gotten estimates from Home Depot,  Lowe's and Sears and several other businesses. This gentleman was the son of a businessman  that my dad used previously Who was both electrician and carpenter. His son is an electrician and is assuming the company now.  OK fast-forward The estimate was sent a partial payment was made the workers came it is now up going on a week and the work has not been done.  Getting a bad feeling about him, I called the man and now I am  I told him  I was concerned about the delays and how the inspector was going to have to come and no word from this gentleman. There is roofing in my yard and I noticed there is no orange permit sign displayed anywhere. I already can guess how screwed I am, but what can I do now?

From: Waukesha, Wisconsin

Hello Everyone!

I'm a Kitchen & Bath Remodeler who uses a Licensed Plumber and Licensed Electrician for all jobs necessary. I am not a General Contractor, so I don't personally have a license I could use. I am planning to do a Finished Basement project (not my area of remodeling) in my own home primarily to add a bedroom for my son to move into since we are expecting another child in September. Since I am already a handy Contractor and plan to do all of the work myself except the Plumbing and Electrical , when I fill out the application; Can I leave out the Contractor Info since I'm doing the majority of the work myself along with my Step-Father who is a retired Carpenter of over 40 years. I want to obtain all of the correct permits but I do not plan to hire a General or other Contractors (except a Plumber & Electrician). I also plan to draw my own plans using my Home Remodeling Software. Any advice would be appreciated...
Thank you!

Sincerely, Brian

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