Stories in Permits

A Permit is NOT just $20

Recently, I landed a project in an adjacent community that required me to pull a permit and the experience caused me to reflect on the question so I often get, “Why is so hard to get someone to do the work and why is your work so expensive?”

Well here is a bit of background to answer that question. To pull a permit the contractor has to be licensed. Sometimes you might get a builder that asks you to pull the permit for them, DON’T DO IT! In fact you need to get as much distance as you can from that craftsman. If you pull the permit then technically you become the general contractor and the craftsman works for you as a sub. As the general contractor you need to check that all your subs are appropriately licensed, insured, have workman’s comp, and unemployment insurance (or the appropriate wavers). If you do not check or the person you have doing the job doesn’t meet the qualifications as a sub then as the general contractor they need to be under your direct supervision and they are your employee. That means you need to pay the previously mentioned workman’s comp and unemployment insurance, plus cut them a W-2, and cover the employer’s share of the FICA (7.5% OUCH!).

So I will pull the permit for my work, that means I’ve paid my annual license fee to the county/state, plus I’ve got all the required insurance and wavers. Next I’m going to go to your municipality and check their rules. In spite of the fact that I pay an occupational fee to the county and a business license fee to my municipality your municipality, even though it is in the same county, it requires I pay a $20 fee to register with them. The paperwork takes around 15 minutes to read and fill out but then I have to go back to my shop to get paper copies of my licenses, contact my insurance company to have them fax my certificate of insurance, get on the internet to get copies of my waivers and then bring the materials back to the municipality office to pay their registration fee (I do have trouble calling townships with less than 2000 people a “city” as in “city hall”). So far we’re up to 1 hour work, 1 hour driving and $20.

Next, I’ll check in with the building inspector to present them with a drawing of the plan. Even though I do all my plans using 3d software the inspector needs to see the renderings on paper. Each township that has a building inspector seems to have differing requirements and even though I write on the renderings that the digital sight plan as the required standoff/setback distances the inspector wants to see the distance measurements on the renderings, he tells me that over the phone after I’ve left the office. Now I play draftsman for the next hour resetting my 3d model into the traditional front and side elevation views with measurements shown plus a top view that includes the property lines with call outs for the required setbacks. They have to be printed and dropped off with the building inspector but the inspector can’t issue a permit until the plan is reviewed (oh come on! It’s just a garden arbor! And you’ve seen the model and already got the first set of print outs!). So 48 hours later I get the call that the permit will cost $48 and is ready for me to pick up, no they can’t e-mail it to me until I’ve paid at the front desk. So, another 2 hours of work, 2 hours of driving and $48 dollars.

In the meantime I’ve been on the phone calling the 811 number “call before you dig”. At least that’s no cost but does take a half hour of time. If you don’t do this and then hit a utility when you’re digging then you have to pay for the repair.

So NOW we are finally ready to start the project, before we’ve driven the first nail and received the permit it has cost us $100/year for the county license, $35/year for the county occupational license, $50/year for the business license,  $700/year for insurance plus a total of 6 ½ hours labor/driving and $68 for the privilege to start work on your project.

Any wonder why it is hard to get someone to do good quality work at a low price?


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