With the rising cost of construction and high unemployment in that industry, many owners are choosing to take on the responsibilities of a contractor under the Owner Builder Permit Exemption laws that allow Owner Builder Permits.

As the owner-builder, you are the contractor on record and responsible for compliance to the regulations of federal, state and county laws that govern construction: OSHA, EPA, taxes, insurance, etc. Violations of these regulations have heavy fines that are levied by the agencies and ignorance does not exempt you from compliance. You are also liable for all persons who enter the project site.


The two state laws that govern owner-builder permits are HRS 444-2.5, Owner-builder Exemption; and HRS 444-9.1, Issuance of building permits, owner-builder registration. These permits can be found at www.capitol.hawaii.gov/hrs.aspx?query=Owner%Builder%20Owner.

HRS 444-2.5 allows the exemption of the owner-builder. HRS 444-9.1 says that the county shall not issue a building permit to the owner-applicant until the applicant signs a statement that the applicant has read and understands the disclosure form. Portions of the disclosure statement reads as follows:

“The exemption provided in section 444-2.5, Hawaii Revised Statutes, allows you, as the owner or lessee of your property, to act as your own general contractor even though you do not have a license. You must supervise the construction yourself. You must also hire licensed subcon-tractors. The building must be for your own use and occupancy. It may not be built for sale or lease … It is your responsibility to make sure that subcontractors hired by you have licenses required by state law and by county licensing ordinances … Your construction must comply with all applicable laws, ordinances, building codes and zoning regulations. If you violate section 444-2.5 or fail to comply with the requirements set forth in this disclosure statement, you may be fined $5,000 or forty percent of the appraised value of the building as determined by the county tax appraiser, whichever is greater, for the first offense; and $10,000 or 50 percent of the appraised value of the building as determined by the county tax appraiser, whichever is greater, for any subsequent offense.”


To read more about the building permit requirements of the City and County of Honolulu, visit www.honolulu.gov. For more information, contact the Building Industry Association of Hawaii at www.biahawaii.org.

Karen Nakamura is executive vice president/CEO of the Building Industry Association of Hawaii.