Today, I picked up my building permit! I had to sign a bunch of stuff acknowledging the responsibilities and liabilities of an owner-builder, but I had done some research, so I have a pretty good idea of what I was signing up for.
California law allows for an exemption for homeowners who want to build on their own property. Basically, they are exempt from the requirements of the California Business and Professions Code, meaning that you DON’T have to have a license to build on your own property. That being said, there are a number of restrictions, most of which have to do with who has liability. All good stuff to know because understanding these details will help you avoid unpleasant legal actions should something go wrong. While there is a lot of legal gobbledygook involved, it boils down to some simple stuff.
(1) If you do you your own work, then you are responsible for the quality of that work, and if you sell the property, the buyers could conceivably come back after you if your work was shoddy. Unlikely in my case because I will be working under approved plans which will be inspected by the building department. Plus, I don’t do shoddy work as I will have to live with it. AND I don’t plan on selling the house. It will likely be inherited by my children (and THEY will have to deal with it).
(2) If I hire work to be done, then the work must be done by a licensed contractor OR I assume the responsibility of acting as a business and therefore have to pay for all of the liability insurance and taxes. Simple solution: Only hire licensed contractors. (And check them out ahead of time.) Yes, it may cost a little more up front, but it’s pennies on the dollar compared with an undocumented immigrant falling off your roof and permanently injuring his back. The immigrant may not do anything, but you can bet that the health care system will track you down and make you pay! This happened to an acquaintance of mine, and I felt very bad for him. But that was a big lapse in judgment on his part.
(3) There are some restrictions on selling the property or working on many properties at once. This is to discourage flippers. You have to own the property for a period of time and you can’t do it to many properties at once. Again, pretty much N/A in my case as this is really my home and not some quick-turn investment get-rich-quick scheme.
The other thing that happened to me today was that my car turned over 100K on the odometer. So I got the extra digit on the screen. It happened moments after I drove out of the civic center parking lot after getting my building permit. Coincidence? Yes,but a happy one. At least it put me in a good mood!