State says no permits without educationGetting a building permit for remodeling could be tough for many Superior contractors this spring or summer after new requirements went into effect this year.
By: Shelley Nelson, The Daily Telegram
Getting a building permit for remodeling could be tough for many Superior contractors this spring or summer after new requirements went into effect this year.
Many remodeling contractors may not even be aware of it, said Marty Curtiss, owner of M&M Remodeling. He stumbled across the requirement recently while taking a refresher course required for certification as a lead-abatement contractor. For years, he was unaware the certification was mandatory, so now he’s scrambling to meet the educational requirements needed to meet state law.
The city cannot issue building permits to contractors who have not met new state requirements, said Mark Young, director of community development, formerly known as building inspection. The only way to get a building permit now is to have the homeowner get it, Curtiss said. But local building officials have long advised against homeowners taking out building permits for their contractors.
“It was the result of a piece of legislation … proposed by the Wisconsin Builders Association,” said Bob DuPont, director of new programs with the building safety division at Wisconsin’s Department of Commerce. “I believe they felt that adding a competency component to contractor credentialing was a good thing. Minnesota has something similar.”
“Prior to the passage of this legislation, there was a requirement that contractors who build homes have a contractor’s license to show that they were properly insured,” DuPont said. “We had on our records about 8,000 of those types of contractors, and we mailed to each one of those contractors a letter that informed them under the new law they would also have to have an individual that would be their qualifier. That individual would be responsible for going to continuing education. We sent that out to everyone who was credentialed at the time the bill passed.”
DuPont explained his use of the term “home builders” is very general and applies to all contractors who are required to get a building permit in the Wisconsin community where they work.
Building permits are required in Superior any time a structure is altered. They are not necessary for repairs. For example, if someone replaces a door with one the same size, a permit is not necessary. However, if someone replaces a single door with a double door, which requires structural changes to a building, a permit is necessary.
DuPont said the certification requirements have been in place since the mid-1990s.
Curtiss said his understanding of the state’s 1995 requirements was that he only needed to meet them if he was involved in new construction, such as building a home or putting an addition on an existing home. He said if he had known that he needed to be state certified, he wouldn’t be in a position of trying to get the education he needs to work this year.
And he’s not alone. According to state records, only about 20 of the 90-plus general contractors licensed to do business in Superior currently have the state credentials they need to get a building permit.
City meets state law
The city of Superior has its own licensing requirements — bond and insurance — to ensure that when something goes wrong or a contractor walks off the job, homeowners are protected, Young said. The state’s certification process since the mid-’90s has mirrored Superior’s licensing requirements, by obligating contractors to demonstrate financial responsibility.
“That’s been required as long as I’ve been here, since ’96 and before that, I’m sure,” Young said of the city’s licensing requirements. “Now, the state requirements, we really haven’t been privy to, nor do we enforce because they are state requirements. The state enforces that end of it. So whatever they’ve required in the past hasn’t been necessary here.”
However, Young said, the changes in state requirements are more stringent than the city’s license requirements, so those requirements must be met before a building permit can be issued.
The new state licensing requirements went into effect Jan. 1.
“We were told in March not to issue any more permits unless we had the appropriate license numbers to put on the permit applications,” Young said. “… I’ve issued the edict to not issue any permits until the license numbers are on there, and the penalty for doing that is me losing my credentials, which I certainly don’t want to do.”
Meeting state code
Contractors who work on one- and two-dwelling family homes are required to have someone on staff who has 12 hours of initial training and continuing education thereafter, DuPont said.
Contractors must meet the 1995 requirements, which require demonstrating to the state annually that the company or contractor has a minimum of $250,000 in general liability insurance per occurrence. A $35 application fee is required.
This year, however, contractors who work on one- and two-family homes now need a second certification that is good for two years and demonstrates they have had 12 hours of initial training or continuing education to maintain the qualifier certification unless grandfathered in. For contractors who held a Dwelling Contractor Financial Responsibility Certification or Dwelling Contractor Financial Responsibility–Restricted Certification between April 11 and April 14, 2006, it’s not sufficient to have an employee meet the standard. It must be the business owner, partner, board chairman, chief executive officer or the contact person of record.
Educational courses must include information on construction law, business practices and construction codes.
Curtiss has lobbied the city council in an effort to get the necessary classes in Superior, but the council was resistant because they don’t see it as a city responsibility.
“I’m not saying it’s the city’s fault or anything like that, but what happened is the city misinterpreted (the state requirements) in 1995,” Curtiss said. “If they hadn’t done that, we would have known about the second part … This wouldn’t be a problem now if we had known about the certification.”
Contact Shelley Nelson at (715) 395-5022 or email@example.com