Homeowners still need city permit for do-it-yourself work

While Pine Bluff residents may now perform work on their own homes without need of a contractor license, anyone doing so must still file for a construction permit with the city and must have their work approved by a city building inspector upon project completion.

An ordinance eliminating the need for a contractor license for do-it-yourself homeowners was passed by the Pine Bluff City Council during its March 17 meeting and was sponsored by Ward 1 Alderwoman Thelma Walker.

Scotty Warren is combination technical inspector with the Pine Bluff Inspection and Zoning Department.

“Homeowners wishing to do work on their residences need to apply for a permit and submit their plans to Inspection and Zoning,” Warren said. “We issue permits for anywhere between 30 days and six months. As long as we can see that progress is being made we usually grant extensions if needed.”

Warren said the regulations concerning home construction and renovation can be somewhat confusing.

“A homeowner can do any type of work on their own home, including plumbing and electrical,” Warren said. “It just has to meet minimum code requirements. Now, if you own a rental home and are doing work on it, then you need a general contractor’s license and you need to hire specialty contractors to do plumbing and electrical work.”

Walker is working with the City Attorney’s Office to craft a sister ordinance that would stop considering residents doing work on their own residence, whether primary or rental, as general contractors for purposes of assessing an occupation tax.

Pine Bluff city code Section 13-71 provides that an occupation tax be assessed on any person performing work in the city as part of their business.

“I believe that this is a win-win for everybody because it will make it easier for people to fix the houses that they own and in the process make the city look better,” Walker said Friday. “Right now we have so many boarded-up homes that sometimes provide places for criminals to hide.”

Interim City Collector Sharon Johnson said the price for a construction permit on projects up to $50,000 in material and labor is $160.

Arkansas state law and Pine Bluff city code agree that a person who acts as a residential building contractor in the construction of his or her residence is exempt from licensing requirements as long as only one residence is built in any calendar year.

State law and city code also agree that the owner of a single-family residence acting as his or her own home improvement contractor on his or her own property is exempt.

State law stipulates that the total of any project must not exceed $2,000 for the exemption to remain in place for a person or entity acting as a residential building contractor or a home improvement contractor, but also provides that the project can be divided into separate contracts of amounts less than $2,000.

State law provides that a person or entity licensed as a contractor by any licensing agency in Arkansas is exempt from any additional licensing requirements in other jurisdictions in Arkansas where he or she may perform work.