Dear Angie: Does a homeowner pay for permits on an interior/exterior home remodel,
or the contractor running the entire job?
– Cara P., Chicago

Dear Cara: Typically, contractors will include permit costs as a part of their bid. But it’s important that your contractor is the one who obtains and pays for the permit.

Why permits should be issued in your contractor’s name

Contractors who don’t agree to pull permits directly may have something to hide, and you could be held liable for problems down the road if your name is listed on a permit instead of the contractor.

Permits are usually required for projects involving electrical, plumbing or HVAC work, and for any major structural changes to your house. Permit requirements and fees vary by city and state, so check local regulations as you plan your project.

When a reputable contractor bids on a project, that bid should include the cost of any required permits. So, your money is ultimately covering the permit cost, but the permits should be issued to your contractor.

If a contractor hesitates to apply for a permit or suggests you pull the permits yourself, consider it a red flag. First, you’re paying the contractor a considerable amount of money for their services, including securing permits for the job. Second, you need to know why a contractor doesn’t want their name on the permits.

Why permits should not be issued in your name

If a contractor hesitates to apply for the permit directly, it may mean they’ve had previous problems working with the city, or are unlicensed. Applying for the permit yourself can also cost you if there are questions or problems with the project after it starts.

If a city inspector has questions about the project happening at your home, they’re going to seek answers from the person named on the permit. If the inspector wants to know about the lateral bracing of a deck or the bearing capacity of a beam, you want your contractor, who will be more familiar with the complexities of the building code, answering those questions.

Check licensing before you hire

Since you’ll be investing a considerable amount of money and putting your home on the line, make sure to hire a licensed contractor for your remodeling project. Otherwise, you could be held liable for costly repairs or injury suffered on the job site. Check with your local licensing agency before making a hiring decision.

Staff writer Tom Lange contributed to this report. Angie Hicks is founder of AngiesList.com, provider of consumer reviews and services. Send questions to askangie@angieslist.com or tweet with #AskAngie. Follow her @Angie_Hicks.

By Angie Hicks, Angie’s List (TNS)