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What is an Owner Builder?

Looking to build your own home and lead the project yourself? You’ve come to the right place.

You are what we call an “owner builder.” Owner builders are authorized by BC Housing to build and occupy a new home for their personal use. Please note that unlike general contractors, you don’t need to be a licensed residential builder or to arrange for third-party warranty insurance on that home.

As an owner builder, you must build or directly manage the construction of your new home yourself. If you engage a builder, construction manager, project manager or any third party to perform these functions, both you and the hired construction manager/builder are committing offence(s) under the Homeowner Protection Act. You could face monetary penalties of up to $25,000 and/or prosecution.

Home warranty insurance

Unlike homeowners who hire a licensed residential builder to construct their new home, as an owner builder you usually don’t have home warranty insurance to rely on should construction defects occur. Nor would any subsequent purchaser. Although you could use tradespeople to deal with some problems, as the owner builder you are responsible for the home’s overall construction for 10 years.

This is particularly important if you decide to sell the new home within the 10-year period of first occupancy. Before you sell, you must get an Owner Builder Disclosure Notice from us and provide it to any prospective buyer. This notice will inform a prospective buyer that the home was built by the owner builder and whether or not the home has a policy of home warranty insurance in place. Unless you’ve arranged for home warranty insurance coverage, you’re personally liable for construction defects in the new home during this 10-year period to any and all subsequent purchasers during this same period.

Section 23 of the Act outlines your specific statutory protection obligations during this period. This statutory protection lets subsequent buyers take legal action against an owner builder. It’s a liability that cannot be waived by agreement or contract. These obligations are similar to the protection from defects under a policy of home warranty insurance:

  • 2 years against defects in material and labour
  • 5 years against defects in the building envelope
  • 10 years against structural defects

Owner builders who opt to arrange for a voluntary policy of home warranty insurance aren’t subject to the statutory protection provision of the Act. However, having a home warranty insurance policy in place for an owner-built home will protect any subsequent homeowners from being liable for construction defects.

Eligibility and exam

To become an owner builder, you must meet all the eligibility criteria. You must also pass an Owner Builder Authorization Exam as part of your overall Owner Builder Authorization application. The Exam will evaluate your knowledge and understanding of home-building basics.

Once you have met all the eligibility criteria, paid your application fee and passed the Exam, we will approve your Owner Builder Authorization. We will then send you a New Home Registration Form (NHRF). Take the NHRF to the municipality or regional district where you plan to build to get your building permit for a single family home. Once you have the permit, you are ready to start construction.

These requirements are in effect for all areas of B.C. Even in areas where building permits are not required, you must still have the Owner Builder Authorization before you start to build.

Authorized owner builders can use our Owner Builder Portal to:

  • Check the status of your application
  • Record your sub-trades and occupancy date
  • Request an Owner Builder Disclosure Notice
  • Start a subsequent new application

Construction professionals can have different levels of involvement in an owner builder project. Our regulatory bulletin, What Builders Need to Know about Owner Builder Projects , outlines these in full.