Permits ignored. Re-do costs $$$. Whose fault?

The situation:
A condo HOA Board tells its management company to hire a contractor to do alter the four 1,000 sq ft vented crawlspaces in their 20 year old 8-unit building. They want them cleaned up and converted to conditioned crawls with conditioned air supplied from the 4 HVACs in the first floor units. The 4 crawls, running west to east, are linked in pairs with no firewall or door between them. One pair is accessed by a door on the west, the other pair by a door on the east. The contractor is hired and proceeds with the work.

The crew removes and dumps the fiberglass insulation from between the joists in all the crawls. A vapor barrier is installed and clean-up work performed. The work has proceeded without a permit, but stops when it is determined that a permit was necessary and that fire barrier issues will have to be resolved. The HOA finds that the costs of installing the required fire protection equipment would be too costly and instruct the crew to restore the crawls to their as-built vented state. The crew buys and installs new fiberglass insulation to replace that thrown away. The final bill is substantially more that the original estimate.

The questions:
Whose responsibility was it to determine if permits and inspections were needed?
What would be a fair and equitable resolution regarding the extra costs incurred by the ignorance of the regulations?

If the contractors in this jurisdiction are licensed, it is likely that they have acknowledged a duty to secure the proper permits prior to beginning such a project. Their bid would have included the costs for obtaining the permits and it would be their responsibility to have scheduled all inspections at the required phase prior to covering their work.

However, the ultimate duty and responsibility for compliance with the local ordinances would be the owner of the building who, in this case, has an agreement in force that would allow him to pass these costs on to the members of the HOA, IMO.

This is a costly mistake that should have been avoided with effective management. Someone should lose their job for this.

After a decade and more of being a contractor myself, I can say that the contractor likely knows whether the scope of work to be performed, in fact required permits or not when they bid the work.

The problem is two fold IMO… who determined that firewall issues had to be resolved and why? was there a dollar amount that would trigger retrofits? Or was the HOA a determining factor in deciding this.

I ask because, if the contractor simply made an “over sight” and now the HOA has determined a new scope of work / change order… you are no longer giving the contractor the opportunity to correct the lack of permit issue, which may be as simple as going and getting one… along with paying fines etc. If that is the case… I would say the contractor is owed what they are billing you. Not a very good way to do business and may be subject to fines etc… but then again, was there any discussion between the HOA and the contractor to forego permits for property tax reasons etc… ? A gamble, maybe.

If, however, it was widely known that the scope of work/$ amount would have triggered the need to retrofit the firewall issues and this was not originally discussed… that may indeed fall more on the contractor. We have mandates like that here… certain dollar amounts of work can trigger certain items from a smoke detector to who knows what to be installed and verified.


Who has the Best Attorneys?

7 months later…:shock:

Sounds like the contractor said it would be done per code.

When a contractor states that something will be done per code, it would have had to be designated as a design-build for him, or he would have had to been given plans by the building owner.

As far as whho is responsible for obtaining for the permits, the answer depends on the agreement between the parties. Typically, the property owner is responsible for obtaining and paying for permits. Absent of this, the contractor could be on the hook for zoning issues, plan submissions, modifications, and approvals.

Again, it depends on the contract between the parties.

“Code Compliance” could be interpreted as pertaining exclusively to the scope of work the contractor was hired to perform.