In BC, an “owner builder” is an individual who has received authorization from BC Housing to build a new residence for their own use. Owner builders do not have to have a license to build their homes or to set up third-party home warranty coverage for their home.
Individuals who want to act as an owner builder for a new home must receive Owner Builder Authorization before starting to build, according to the Homeowner Protection Act and Regulation, and this law is in force throughout BC, even in areas where local laws do not require building permits.
You must build or manage the construction of the new home yourself. Hiring a builder, construction manager or any other third party to do the job can lead to fines and/or prosecution.
You won’t have home warranty insurance to cover any defects in construction, nor would anyone who buys the house from you.
You are allowed to hire tradespeople to take care of some issues, but you have responsibility for the overall construction of the house for ten years.
You must disclose this information to any potential buyers, should you sell the house in the first ten years of first occupancy.
If you have not purchased third-party home warranty insurance coverage, you would have persona liability for construction defects in the first ten years for anyone who buys the house from you – or anyone who buys the house from subsequent purchasers during that ten-year window.
The specific time periods for your liability include two years against defects in labor and materials, five years against defects within the building envelope and ten years against structural defects.
The Act allows for purchasers to come after you in court to fix any defects in this timeline, even if you have an agreement in the sales contract that would act as a waiver. The only exception would come for owner builders who secure third-party home warranty insurance.
Who is Eligible?
You must be an individual (not a company, unless you direct a family farm corporation), and you must have a registered interest in the land where you will build the home, such as fee simple, life interest or a lease of at least 15 years.
You must intend to build a single residential unit, either a detached home, or a home attached to a new non-residential building or a pre-existing building that is at least ten years old.
You must not offer to sell or transfer your interest in the land for at least a year after the new house has been finished.
You must intend to occupy the house for personal use for a minimum of one year after initial occupancy.
You must not have received Owner Builder Authorization for a minimum of 18 months from initial occupancy of your last owner-built home. If you go through this process multiple times, the waiting period becomes longer.
You must not reside with a person who has received Owner Builder Authorization in the last 18 months.
You must intend to build or manage construction of substantially all, or all, of the house.
You must never have been found in noncompliance with the other requirements on this list.
You must receive a grade of at least 70 percent on the Owner Builder Authorization Examination.
You must pay the $425 Owner Builder Authorization fee, including the $50 nonrefundable application fee.
Go to www.bchousing.org to find the Application for an Owner Builder Authorization. The application is under the Licensing and Consumer Services section of the website. If you don’t have Internet access, you can reach out to Licensing and Consumer Services for a printed application. If you go through this process online, there is a pre-screening set of questions as well.
If you gain approval through pre-screening, you will receive an invitation to make a unique login ID. You’ll enter contact information, as well as details about the new construction site and any other homes you have constructed as an Owner Builder. Then you will have access to the application, and you can either pay your fee online or mail in payment with your application. The Licensing Department must receive the application and fee before beginning review. If your application is not approved, you receive $375 back (the $425 fee less the $50 application fee).
If you are deemed eligible, you will then receive details about the examination. The cost of the exam is included in your $425 fee. The examination tests your knowledge and understanding of construction basics and the legal obligations of the Act. If you score at least a 70 percent, you will pass the test.
After you finish the test, the Licensing Department will review the application one final time, and then you receive notification from the Licensing Department. You will receive a New Home Registration Form from BC Housing if you are approved. If your application is denied, you will receive a letter in the mail explaining the reasons why, along with that partial refund.
Take your New Home Registration Form to the city or regional district that has jurisdiction over the area where the new home will be to receive a building permit. In areas that do not require a building permit, keep the New Home Registration Form in your possession.
After the home is finished and you have moved in, you must notify BC Housing of the occupancy date and a list of any tradespersons that you hired in the construction process. You can complete all of this in your online account that you set up to start the application.
If you want to sell the house within 10 years after the first occupancy, be sure to contact the Licensing Department for a disclosure. You may not list, sell or rent the house for a year after construction, unless the Registrar provides individual approval.
Special Note: If you build your home in a jurisdiction that requires permits for occupancy, that permit establishes the beginning of the timeline for the ten-year liability period, the one-year personal use requirement and the waiting period for future authorizations.