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Understanding Permits

Many consumers ask why permits are needed when work is performed by a plumbing, heating or cooling contractor. In this article, we’ll provide you with some answers about city and state permits.

Not all work that a plumber or heating/air conditioning company performs requires a city or state permit. For instance, repairing a leaking pipe by soldering a coupling on it or replacing a motor in a furnace does not require permits. Re-piping the home, replacing the main water service or replacing the furnace does require a permit in nearly all cities.

If you’re wondering whether your job requires a permit, you can call the building department in your city to find out. Find their phone number in the front of the White Pages Phone Book under government listings.

There are many benefits to requiring and purchasing a city or state permit. Some of these are as follows:

  1. Holding a permit enables you to comply with the law and avoid problems later. It is illegal to build without a building permit. A change in your building’s structure could represent a problem when your home eventually goes up for sale.
  2. It ensures that the contractor is properly licensed to perform the work that they have contracted for. Have the contractor purchase the permit because they have to show their license in order to purchase it. Properly licensed contractors typically perform higher quality work.
  3. You’ll know the contractor you hired has the proper workers compensation insurance for your job. If a contractor works for you that does not have workers compensation insurance and has an employee injury on the job, you, as the homeowner, can be made to pay the damages. Workers compensation claims are very costly in this industry. A small cut on the hand or arm that requires 4 stitches can cost over $1000.00 as soon as the doctor finds out it happened on the job. A slight back injury can cost over $20,000. Using only insured contractors can protect you against costly losses.
  4. A permit double-checks that proper manufacturer's installation instructions and code safety requirements have been followed. After the contractor completes the job, a city inspector will check the work. The inspector will ensure that the installation and repairs are of high quality and that all safety standard have been followed.
  5. Permits ensure that the warranty of the manufacture stays valid. Nearly all warranties specify that the product must be installed in a manner compliant with the installation instructions in order to maintain a valid warranty. The majority of problems with plumbing, heating, and air conditioning systems and devices are caused due to poor installation techniques that compromise the ability of the product to function in the way that it was intended and not because of manufacturing defects. The inspection will help to avoid system failures caused by poor installation.
  6. The permit process, if requested at the time of the bidding process, will help maintain a level bidding field with the contractors that are competing against each other. The inspector will not allow "short cuts" to take place. The inspector will require all contractors to install the items in the bid with the same minimum level of safety and expertise. This will let you get a better idea of whose bid for the work is best and the most complete. Many times the unlicensed contractor or the contractor that does not know what they are doing will decline to bid a job when confronted with a requirement to obtain the proper city or state permits. This will help to eliminate those contractors that you would not like working on your home due to lack of experience.
  7. Permits help to weed out the sloppy bidder and the scam artist. Telling your contractor that they will need to get the required permit will make sure that they bid in all the items that will need to be up graded or replaced for a complete and safe installation. Many times people bidding jobs will inadvertently or in some cases deliberately leave out portions of the job only to later claim that they were "unforeseen circumstances" and need to be added in the job at a substantial expense. The permit requirement will make the sloppy salesperson look into the job a little more in-depth and if the salesperson was purposely trying to underbid the job by leaving something out, you have just told them that you are an educated customer. You will almost certainly receive a better quality and more thorough bid.

When a permit is required on your plumbing, heating or cooling job, you can now use it to your advantage for improved quality, safety, and protection.