Builder won't take responsibility for permit omission

templemorrisMay 18, 2012

Hi everyone,

This post is long, but I would be grateful for any advice you might have!

Anyway, my builder and I are having a dispute over who is responsible for omitting the fireplace from our permit sets. It's a problem for 2 reasons:

1) It cost us $800 to add the fireplace to the permit set. The builder may also want us to pay the architect who drew up the amended plans.

2) Our ability to move in is being delayed by 2 or 3 weeks -- we don't yet know. (And this, on top of other delays that have left us living with my sister for over a month!)

By way of back story: This is a modular home. In the earliest factory floorplans, the fireplace was on the plans. About a year ago, the builder omitted the fireplace, saying it didn't need to be on the factory floorplan since he would install it on-site.

Several months later, my builder said that he didn't think he could install the fireplace himself. He thought it was too complicated for his guys. He told me to find my own subcontractor, which I agreed to do.

Several months after that, the permit plans were submitted, using the floorplans created by the modular home manufacturer. The fireplace was not included on the permitting plans. Nobody noticed, though conversations about the fireplace had been ongoing, and it was an item on the builder's estimate. (Strangely, he did include on the plans a chase to accomadate the flue.)

My argument is that, as a layperson, I don't know what needs to be in a permit set. That's why I hired a builder. Isn't it his job to make sure that the permit set is complete? That it includes every item requiring inspection?

Right now, he's saying that the absence of the fireplace from the permit sets was "not an error. It was an omission." I asked him why he omitted the fireplace, and he said it had never been on the floorplan (not true, though he did remove it a year ago). My guess is that he just plain forgot about the fireplace, so didn't notice it's absence on the permit sets.

I also think he might say that because I hired the subcontractor, it was my responsibility to get the fireplace permitted. Is that reasonable to expect of the client? If so, shouldn't he have said, "You're going to need to have the permit amended before the installation." I mean, the inspector almost issued a stop-work order when he saw the fireplace wasn't on the permit. Clearly, this was a serious oversight.

Lastly, it seems he could have suggested that I wait until after inspection to install the fireplace -- something he did suggest with other items.

So, who's fault is this? Any thoughts on how to argue this with him?

Many Thanks!


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You said the fireplace was "an item on the builder's estimate." Does this mean the final contract documents/quote specifically included the fireplace in question? If so, I would suggest that that proves his legal responsibility for taking the steps necessary to have it installed.

So, do you have this listed in the final contract specifications?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 12:44PM
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Epiarch Designs

it would depend on if the contract plans and specs call out a fireplace, and his estimate bid also includes it, which it sounds like it might. However one thing to keep in mind...if he has not paid for it OR charged you for it, it is still a cost you would be paying for regardless.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 1:20PM
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I guess I am confused - wouldn't you have had to pay the 800.00 either way? If it was included the first time around, it would have increased the permit cost, presumably by 800. It seems like you would be paying for it regardless like lzerarc said.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 3:59PM
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Wow, a one-time fireplace tax, in effect.

he could have suggested that I wait until after inspection to install the fireplace -- something he did suggest with other items.

And how would that benefit you??

Especially when someone, perhaps an inspector, notices the gas flue (assuming it's gas) sticking out of your house and wants to see your permit and plans. Or when you resell and a home inspector or Purchaser wants to confirm it's properly permitted and installed??

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 8:01PM
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Thank you all for your responses! In answer to your questions:

"Does this mean the final contract documents/quote specifically included the fireplace in question?"
Yes, they did. The Final Estimate -- a separate document from the Contract, but part of the document package -- states that the builder will install the fireplace. (It includes a short desc. of the installation, and the price.)

"Wouldn't you have had to pay the 800.00 either way?"
No. The $800 was just to amend the permit.

FWIW, I understand that we paid him to put the permit sets together, and that it was our job to submit them to the county. We did so with the belief that he would create accurate and complete permit sets. So, are we responsible for having the technical knowledge necessary to review a permit set for accuracy? (I should mention that when the County Reviewer found several errors in the plan, our builder corrected them. He did not say, "Oh, that's your responsibility dear client...)

So, whaddya think? Do we have a leg to stand on?


    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 1:34PM
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