Is It Legal to Build Your Own House Without Using a Contractor?

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Is It Legal to Build Your Own House?

House Under Construction

House Under Construction

Can you build a house by yourself without hiring a contractor? This is a question that some people would like to have answers for. The answer is it depends. There are situations and conditions which make it legal to build a house on your own, and there are situations and conditions which make it illegal to build a residence on your own.

It’s legal to build your own home without hiring a construction company if you meet the following requirements:

1 – You Have a Building License

A building license is not a building permit. These are two different things. A building license is a trade/professional license that allows you to operate as a building contractor. In order to get this license, you must have relevant certifications and qualifications in your trade. A minimum level of experience is also required in a trade you are applying for as well as other documentation. In some cases, you have to pass Trade Exams by the local boards and authorities. The minimum age requirement to get a license is 18 years, good credit scores and a certificate of competency are some of the items that are needed. Each and every state in the USA has its own licensing requirements and laws which may be more or less the same.

As you can see, you have to be a qualified/certified builder by profession if you are planning to build your own house. Without a trade license, you are not allowed to build a house on your own. There are various types of licenses required in the construction industry and these are specified by the municipalities/local authorities under their Building Regulations and Departments. There are 3 broad categories of licenses which limit the type, size and scope of work you can do and these are General Contractor, Building Contractor and Residential Contractor licences. Trade specific licenses for bricklaying, plumbing, HVAC, plastering, painting, roofing, carpentry, tiling, glazing, electrical installation and so on will also be required.

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The question you must ask yourself is, are you competent, qualified, experienced and certified in all these specialty trades? Most likely you aren’t and you will need to hire skilled labourers and artisans to perform certain duties and jobs. As an example, you might be a qualified bricklayer, but you will need a skilled plasterer, tiler, roofer, painter, plumber, HVAC technician and electrician to complete tasks that you aren’t qualified in.

Getting a building license is not easy. According to reports, 90% of applications will be rejected by the local authorities. Building is a complex task that should comply with statutes and codes set by the state and local government authorities, to prevent potential disasters, hazards and disorder.

2 – You Stay in a Remote Unregulated Zone

In some countries, there are rural areas whereby the area is undeveloped and unregulated. This territory usually lacks basic infrastructure such as electrical, water and sewer reticulation. In such areas, people usually build their own homes in clustered communities since the area hasn’t attained village or town status. Note that once the area has been designated under an authority for development purposes, the settlements and homes will be subject to Municipal Building Regulations and Codes. That means the homes will be destroyed and taken down.

When is it Illegal to Build your Own House?

Basically, you are not allowed to build a house if you don’t have a license as a certified contractor. Even tiny houses and DIY home kits are regulated. They need to be installed and assembled by a registered contractor.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Building a House on Your Own

The common idea behind a DIY house is that it’s more economical to build on your own rather than outsourcing skills and labour to a contractor. Eliminating the contractor’s costs and profit will allow you to save money, but it will cost you time, energy and operational efficiency. It takes a lot of time to build a house on your own. A typical house takes about 3 to 6 months to build when using a contracting company. An owner-built house will take longer by at least 3 months.

A team makes less mistakes than one man because the tasks are delegated among specialized skilled workers and technicians, so the work is done smoothly and efficiently. The advantage of using a contractor is that the company has established relationships with suppliers and logistics in place which makes procurement of materials, labour and equipment a smooth process. Established construction companies with a positive bank rating, certificate of good standing and work history have access to supplier credit facilities which allows them to buy materials without advance payment. This is very important if you have cashflow problems because it allows your project to run smoothly without delays and stoppages. Outstanding amounts are usually paid at the end of each valuation period. Established contractors also have credit arrangements with banks, loan companies and other financiers, to ensure the project won’t run into cashflow problems. It’s often easier to get funding as a registered company than as an individual. That doesn’t mean the DIY Home Builder has no options. There are banks which provide individuals with construction loans for building a house, renovations, remodelling and repairs.

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Building is a daunting task if you don’t know the right people and places in the industry. The DIY house builder is confronted with multiple tasks which include planning, excavation, building, organization of equipment and materials. Since no-one is a Jack of all Trades, the DIY home owner has to spend a lot of time learning things which is he is not acquainted with. That means reading manuals, watching videos and liaising with experts in the specialized trades.

Being a DIY home builder means you are a licensed contractor, and you have to hire subcontractors in the course of the project. Building a house on your own doesn’t absolve you from contractor/subcontractor’s risks and obligations. All the risks, liabilities, penalties and conditions of contracts which apply in a typical construction contract will also apply to you and the subcontractors. This includes insurance and workmen’s compensation.


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