Michigan Residents: Make Your Contractor Get That Permit
There are two types of permits... one for work performed by the home owner, and one for the licensed contractor.
If you are thinking of working on the house and ignorning the permit office -- don't.
And NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER obtain a homeowner's construction permit for a contractor! In Michigan, it is the property owner's responsibility to make sure the permit is obtained, but not to obtain it for the contractor.
What Work Requires A Permit?
According to Section R105 of the 2006 Michigan Residential Code, you basically need a permit to mess with your building structure, or your electrical/mechanical/plumbing structures.
A number of municipalites have gone to a "simple permit" system that issues permits online.
There are exemptions to the permit rule. Section R105.2 exempts emergency work (as long as the permit application is submitted to the bulding official by the next business day). Ordinary repairs to the building or property do not require a permit.
Building projects exempt from a permit:
- One-story detached accessory structures (if the floor area does not exceed 200 square feet)
- A fence less than 6 feet high
- A retaining wall not more than 4 feet in height (measured from the bottom of the footing)
- A sidewalk not more than 30 inches above grad e and not over a basement or story below
- Painting, papering, tiling, carpeting, cabinets, counter tops, and similar finish work
- A pre-fab swimming pool less than 24 inches deep
- Swings and playground equipment
Electrical projects exempt from a permit:
Minor repair work, including the replacement of lamps or the connection of approved portable electrical equipment to approved permanently installed receptacles.
Mechanical projects exempt from a permit:
- Portable heating, cooling, cooking, ventilation or clothes drying appliances
- Replacement of any minor part that does not alter approval of equipment
- Piping not regulated by the code inside a heating or cooling device
Plumbing projects exempt from a permit:
- The stopping of leaks in drains, water pipes and ventilation pipes
- The clearing of stoppages or repairing leaks in pipes, valves, or fixtures
- The removal and reinstallation of water closets (as long as piping is not rearranged)
The full list of exemptions is available in the 2006 Michigan Residential Code, Section R105.2
If you are using the services of contractors, make sure they are licensed. Let's say something goes terribly wrong during the construction or remodel. Most homeowner insurance policies wlll not cover damages caused when homeowners use unlicensed labor! So the couple hundred dollars saved can cost a homeowner tens of thousands of dollars... even hundreds of thousands in extreme cases.
Also, keep in mind that in the State of Michigan, it is a misdemeanor for a person to practice construction or remodeling for pay greater than $600 without a license (i.e. feel free to work on your own house or a buddy's house, but don't work on the buddy's house for pay). The $600 figure allows the handyman to take simple projects around houses without being licensed.
It is also against the law to break a large project into a bunch of $599 projects to avoid exceeding the $600 figure.
Licensed contractors answer to the Residential Builders' and Maintenance & Alteration Contractors' Board, a part of the Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth.
If the contractor does cruddy work, you can contact the the Bureau of Commecial Services at the DELEG to complain. These are not the guys the contractor wants as enemies. After an investigation, if you are in the right, the DELEG will take an enforcement action against the contractor. You can also raise a stink with your local building inspector -- as long as the contractor was licensed.
To protect yourself, if the contractor has any employees, be sure he has worker’s compensation (otherwise injured workers can take legal action against you). Be sure he is bonded because if he fails to perform the job, at least you can go after his bond insurance. (A contractor's bond ensures that the work will be completed or that you will be compensated. It is proof of financial responsibility.)