What is an Owner-Builder Permit?

Lenore T. Brakefield attorney

Lenore T. Brakefield, Esq., CFL™, Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A.

By Lenore T. Brakefield, Esq.

Chapter 489, Florida Statutes, regulates construction contractors and licensing requirements to protect the public health and safety of Florida residents. In general, most projects require a licensed contractor to construct improvements on real property. However, there are some exemptions to this general rule outlined in Section 489.103, Florida Statutes, that do not require a licensed contractor such as an Owner-Builder Permit. For example, Section 489.103(7)(a), Florida Statutes, allows property owners to act as their own contractor and provide direct, onsite supervision of all work not performed by licensed contractors under the following circumstances:

  • when building or improving farm outbuildings or one-family or two-family residences on such property for occupancy or use of such owners and not offered for sale or lease; and
  • when building or improving commercial buildings, at a cost not to exceed $75,000.

To qualify for the above-listed exemptions, Florida property owners must personally appear and sign the building permit application and must satisfy local permitting agency requirements, if any, proving the property owners have a complete understanding of the owners’ obligations under the law as specified. In each of these circumstances, the property owners must acknowledge that the residence, farm outbuilding, or commercial building is not being built or improved for sale or lease. If the property owners attempt to sell or lease the improved project within one year after completion of the project, the law will presume that the property owners built or substantially improved it for sale or lease, which is a violation of the exemption.

Project Responsibility and Supervision Requirements

In addition, Florida property owners must also acknowledge that they are legally and financially responsible for the construction project and cannot delegate any responsibility for supervising the work to an unlicensed contractor. This means property owners must supervise the project diligently and ensure that anyone working on the project is licensed to protect themselves from violations of this exemption. All improvements must still comply with all applicable laws, ordinances, building codes, and zoning regulations. In addition, any person working for the property owners who is not licensed must work under the property owners’ direct supervision and must be employed by the property owners, which means property owners must comply with laws requiring the withholding of federal income tax and social security contributions under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act and must provide workers’ compensation for the employee.

Risks of Owner-Builder Permits

There are risks associated with an Owner-Builder Permit in Florida. Property owners may be held liable and subjected to financial risk for any injuries sustained by an unlicensed person or his or her employees while working on the property. Homeowners’ insurance may not cover this type of accident. In addition, once an owner-builder permit has been applied for, the property owners become the party legally and financially responsible for the proposed construction activity.

If you are considering obtaining an owner-builder permit in Florida, consult a knowledgeable Southwest Florida attorney at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A. to discuss your plans and ensure they align with the applicable Statute and its exemptions to avoid violations and unnecessary liability.

About the Author

Attorney Lenore T. Brakefield is a partner at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A. in Naples and Marco Island, Florida. She is a Naples native and graduated cum laude from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Lenore focuses her law practice on civil and commercial litigation, including construction litigation matters. She also handles local government law, code enforcement violations, community association law, real estate law, and contract and transactional matters. Additionally, Lenore is a Certified Financial Litigator (CFL™) by the American Academy for Certified Financial Litigators.

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