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I am replacing an exterior deck. I've had several contractors out to give quotes, accepted an estimate from one, and am now in the position of signing (or not) a contract for the work. It's a lump sum contract (the job is small, 1-2 days of work) and contains the following language in a section titled Acceptance and Occupancy:

  1. Upon completion, the project shall be inspected by the Owner and the Contractor, and any repairs necessary to comply with the contract documents shall be made by the Contractor.
  2. The Owner shall not occupy the property until final payment has been received by the Contractor and a Certificate of Occupancy has been obtained.
  3. Occupancy of the project by the Owner in violation of (2) shall constitute unconditional acceptance of the project and a waiver of any defects or uncompleted work.

I have several misgivings about this section:

  • "The property" is currently occupied and we will continue to occupy it for the duration of the work, which is entirely exterior.
  • The Contractor is not explicitly obligated by the contract to provide the Certificate of Occupancy to the Owner (it must only "be obtained").
  • The city website under Inspections and Certificates states that "Certificates of Occupancy or Compliance are not issued for Residential structures."

Based on a few other errors in the contract (which I have marked and will send back to the contractor before signing), I suspect this clause is boilerplate from a standard contract they use for larger jobs.

Is this clause typical for small exterior construction like a deck/staircase?

Should I be concerned if the contractor refuses to amend it before signing?

  • I'm not a pro about these law issues, but I got an impression that the contract cannot forbid You to occupy something You own. Moreover, Certificate of Occupancy shouldn't be appliable to structures like Your house (which You checked). I wouldn't sign that contract. More - I would check local civil engineer society/city engineer (any legal body) if It's not illegal to write something like that in a contract. – Marek Oleszczuk Jun 17 '15 at 10:07
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    The contractor is using a boilerplate document. If you object to any of the items in the contract, make sure they are removed before you sign it. Bring this to the attention of the contractor, and have whatever objections you have removed. – Tester101 Jun 17 '15 at 10:56
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    @MarekOleszczuk This is boilerplate text, and doesn't apply to this situation. It's basically saying that if this guy builds you a house, you can't live in it until it's deemed habitable and you've paid the builder. While you may own the property, the builder owns the house until you pay him for it. He has every right to keep you out of his house, even if you let him build it on your property. – Tester101 Jun 17 '15 at 11:01
  • @Tester101 well, okay, if You say so. I understand the situation that safety measures prevent people from nearly-finished house, but this seems not be the case as it is exterior deck what is replacing. if not because of safety measures, just to take the money, I wouldn't sign that. that's how I see it. – Marek Oleszczuk Jun 17 '15 at 11:14
  • It's boilerplate and you can strike it. The contractor may refuse to proceed, but that is a negotiation. Certificate of Occupancy is often required for decks in many jurisdictions. That is a safety issue to ensure that it conforms to local building standards. – bib Jun 17 '15 at 12:14
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To me it sounds like boilerplate contract talk. Normally, when you get a building permit and there is a final inspection on something and it passes you will then get an occupancy certificate.

Can't say I've ever seen it for a deck, but depending on your municipality or whatever "authority having jurisdiction" requires, maybe you do need a certificate of occupancy before you can use it.

Ask your contractor about it and have them explain it to you. Don't sign something you are not comfortable with or don't understand.

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