Florida:Lake County’s scary Owner Builder Disclosure Statement

by Don Magruder

Homeowners who would like to act as their own contractor on their personal construction project must sign an Owner Builder Disclosure Statement when applying for a permit at the Lake County Building Department. If you want to be scared worse than by watching a rerun of the movie “Exorcist” in a dark house, read the stipulations to the statement you are required to sign. If ever a document could be compiled to discourage homeowners from working on their own property, this is the one.

The purpose of this document is very simple: Lake County does not want homeowners pulling permits for unlicensed contractors who are trying to cheat the system. As you know, I strongly support and believe that all contractors should be fully licensed and insured and that unlicensed activity hurts the most vulnerable homeowners. However, as an American, I also believe that a homeowner who has the skill set to work on his or her home at a level in compliance with the Florida Building Code, should not be impeded.

In this era of labor shortages, I am not sure that discouraging qualified homeowners from performing work on their property is the best approach. Don’t forget: Most of the skilled tradespeople of today started out on personal home improvement projects.

In last week’s column, I discussed all of the bureaucratic requirements for a homeowner to pull a permit. If that doesn’t stop most homeowners, I believe the Owner Builder Disclosure Statement will. Here are some of the 12 stipulations a homeowner must agree to in this document:

Work must be done by a licensed contractor.

Homeowner acknowledges that they are taking responsibility for the construction.

Homeowner acknowledges that they are the party of record and can protect themselves by hiring a licensed contractor.

Owner is allowed to improve a home or up to $75,000 in commercial property. However, the work cannot be done to sell or lease the property for a period of one year after the construction is complete.

Homeowner must provide direct onsite supervision of the construction.

Homeowner cannot hire an unlicensed contractor and the homeowner must verify that all contractors are properly licensed.

Homeowner acknowledges the financial risk for any injuries sustained by an unlicensed contractor or their employees while working on their property.

Homeowner acknowledges that they are responsible and at financial risk for all federal income tax and social security contributions if they hire an unlicensed contractor.

Homeowner agrees to abide by all ordinances, zoning and laws as they relate to the building code and the municipality.

Homeowner is required to obtain information from governing authorities on all legal requirements.

Homeowner acknowledges that they are responsible and own the property where the work is being permitted.

Homeowner agrees to notify Lake County Building Services of any changes, deletions or additions to the information in the Owner Builder Disclosure Statement.

The Owner Builder Disclosure Statement concludes by reminding the homeowner of a fine of up to $5,000 for hiring unlicensed contractors as well as a first-degree misdemeanor for violating the exemption, which is punishable by a $1,000 fine and a term of imprisonment not to exceed one year.

The above information represents an abbreviated interpretation of the two-page document that must be signed. For the exact verbiage, a homeowner can go to the Building Services section on the Lake County website.

I can just imagine any homeowner that truly reads this Owner Builder Disclosure Statement being completely frightened. Plus the restrictions on selling or leasing the property seems to be a fundamental violation of basic property rights.

My advice to homeowners who want to act as their own contractor is to carefully read the Owner Builder Disclosure Statement before assuming the responsibility and liability for working on your own property.

Don Magruder is the CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc., and he is also the host of the “Around the House” Radio Show heard every Monday at noon on My790AM WLBE in Leesburg.

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