Alex asks: Our contractor wants us to take out the building permit for an addition under our name and says that is standard procedure. Does it matter whether the owner or contractor takes out the building permit?
Steve Bliss, of BuildingAdvisor.com, responds: In general, you are better off having the contractor take out the permit. If you take out the permit in your (the owner’s) name, then you become an owner-builder, at least with respect to the local jurisdiction (city, town, or county) issuing the permit. As an owner-builder, you may lose some of the legal protections provided to construction clients by the local or state government.
For one thing, most jurisdictions will not issue a permit to a contractor who is not properly licensed and insured Also, the person signing the permit is the party responsible for passing all inspections and obtaining an occupancy permit. Finally, some jurisdictions have consumer protection laws that may only apply if a licensed contractor signs the permit.
A contractor who insists that you draw the permit may be trying to avoid liability and responsibility for the job – not a good sign. In some cases, the owner and contractor take out the permit jointly, but with the contractor listed as the responsible party.
Laws and application forms vary a great deal from state to state, and sometimes from town to town, so it’s always a good idea to contact the local building department to discuss which approach would be best for you.