If you have a beautiful home, there will come a time when your hands begin itching to do home improvement! This can include anything from new paint colors to building outbuildings to even home extensions. But there can also be another consideration you need in order to progress in your goals. You certainly don’t want to do anything that isn’t legal, whether with your city or county, or with your HOA. How can you know what things need a special permit, or legal action, and which would not?
Everybody has heard terrible rumors of awful and fraudulent contractors. This kind walks in, looks over the project you need, and says that absolutely they can do the work, often beginning the next day, even! And then they get halfway through and disappear like they’re ghosting a bad dinner date. You’d like to avoid those, especially before they begin carving into your counters or walls! Be smart in advance and document your contract, and keep work receipts. This helps if you have to go to small claims court. Prevent fraud by getting recommendations from three trustworthy people and references from your potential contractor.
You might not mind if your neighbor has a goat in their backyard, or a couple of cute chickens in a coop. But if they begin having dozens of roosters waking you each morning, or start a business in their front yard including a large pig sty, you might get concerned. The law breaks communities into zones, some of which are not allowed to have businesses, some which are residential in places and business in others, and many which forbid things like farm animals or one hundred and fifty foot flag poles. Zoning laws also regulate building sizes and noise restrictions, which is good in case a large factory wants to build in your backyard!
If you’re having people work on your property, whether as formal contractors or informal “friend helpers,” you need to consider injury liability. All it takes is a simple fall from a ladder to cause an individual to have ongoing pain from working on your house or property, and you need to know what your personal liability is for that. If your contractor is licensed and bonded, then they generally have their own insurance for such things, which is important. You want your building and repairs finished, but you don’t want someone’s carelessness or an unavoidable accident-causing injury which will cause you ongoing financial complications. Generally, your homeowner’s insurance will protect you from that problem, unless it was your own carelessness or neglect which caused the accident in the first place.
You can improve your home life with all the features you can add to a deck, patio, and general backyard area. And one of the biggest ways you can do so is with a new outbuilding, like a shed or garage. But, you can’t do either unless your local city ordinance workers allow you a permit for building! Yes, you own your property, but it’s their job to make sure local ordinances are followed. For example, if you have plans to build a shed, you generally need to build carefully within your property line, no more than ten to fifteen feet from the fencing of the line. Plus, getting a permit ensures that you are protected if neighbors try to dispute what you’ve built.
Construction defect laws can include several major types of defects in construction. This includes there being a major flaw in the plans. A design flaw can mean that no matter how shiny the builders made your build, if the plans were done incorrectly, your build cannot be safe to use or work properly. If there are workmanship defects, this means that your build has bits put together incorrectly. And if there are material defects, this means the materials used to make your build, no matter how nice it looked finished, were defective and unsafe.
Liens can be a legitimate way for a contractor who is honorable and has finished a remodel to regain their money if a property owner refuses to pay. However, if you have an untrustworthy contractor, they technically could put a lien on your property claiming that you refuse to pay, when you have, or when you are concerned about construction defects involved in the build. They must be fought in court, of course.
You want your contractor and subcontractors to work well together, but collusion means that they are working well together with the intent of fraud. This might mean that a subcontractor inflates a price, which the contractor then presents to you, for example. Bids can be rigged. Sneakiness is to be avoided, so research to make sure your contractor doesn’t take kickbacks or other fraudulent practices.
Substituting or Removing a Material
If you have a material substituted without your knowledge, this can mean having substandard materials in your home. Something as simple as substituting the drywall for one made overseas which includes asbestos can make complicated and expensive repairs in your future. You want everything in your build to be up to code, and done safely, naturally. This involves knowing if anything is substituted, and documenting in case future repair is necessary.
Regardless of what kind of build you have done, your best bet is documentation. Do the work to find contractors who can honorably do the work that you need done in your home and property. Know your contractor and subcontractors, and document their names and business names, licenses, bonds, etc. The chances are that you will never need this info, and your build will go off without a hitch! But, just in case you have some sort of problem later on—whether you need to sue for breach of contract or prove you were following regulations yourself—knowing information like this can help you protect yourself while renovating your home!
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