Transfer of plans/permits to a new owner?


I'm working on a small residential project (adding a roof top addition to a row house) where the client is wondering about the possibility of not pursuing construction, but instead selling the building permit (and presumably my drawings) with the property.   We haven't gotten that far in the design process, but I am a little uneasy about this for several reasons.  This is the first time a client has approached me with this idea, although I'd imagine its not that uncommon of a request.  The way my contract is written, "the instruments of service" are mine and not his to sell.  Presumably, I could give him authorization to transfer these documents, what sort of liability down the road do I assume?  I assume what is filed with the city offers some protection, ie. no changes unless I consent to them.  Any experiences people are willing to share?



Nov 8, 13 1:13 pm

We haven't gotten that far in the design process

I assume that means no working drawings yet or permit submittal(?).  I wouldn't let another client just step in--treat it as a new contract.  Make sure you've been paid to date.  You don't know anything about the new owner.  You might not get along and he might be a real sleaze.  Letting him "sell" concept sketches with the property to show what could be done is probably OK.

Nov 8, 13 3:34 pm
I would think that the building dept won't transfer a permit to a new owner. And your client probably will realize that permits cost money and won't get one if he's planning on selling.
Nov 8, 13 3:40 pm

your contract is with the current owner, he can not transfer your design work to the new owner unless you give direct consent.  although he might just give the new owner the drawings, and they can hire a different architect to copy your design (happens all the time). 

make sure you get a feel for the new owner to make sure he is not a total dickhead before agreeing to transfer your services. 

Nov 8, 13 5:01 pm

Thanks for the comments guys.  

geezer - yes that is correct only concept schematics at this point.  Owner is wants to move forward with Cds and permit, but wants to be able to transfer the permit in a sale.

gruen- this project would require a historic review approval, so the owner sees some value in being able to sell the property with this approval in place.

Chig- I understand this...I'm wondering about liability on my end in the future if the design/documents are passed off.  Most likely I would never meet the new owner.  Yes there is a possibility that I could have 2nd contract with the new owner, but I'm not assured of that.  

Nov 12, 13 12:38 pm

I'm wondering about liability on my end in the future if the design/documents are passed off.  Most likely I would never meet the new owner.

In theory, your liability shouldn't change since it is a function of whether or not you have committed malpractice.  Unfortunately, theory and real life are often two different things.  If he inherits the permit, you will still be architect of record.  I don't like the idea of you not even knowing who it is or whether they are trustworthy, etc.  You have no control or input as to who he hires as contractor, and whether you will have access to the project.  There is case law precedent for holding the architect liable for deviations from drawings even when there is no payment for inspection.  Basically, you have to do it for free just to cover your ass.  You need to have some means of reigning in this unseen client if they run amok.  You might want to bounce it off an attorney.

Nov 12, 13 4:10 pm

find out if the jurisdiction in which you are submitting for permit even allows transfer of building permits to new owners...I doubt it.  in the case that this is allowed or that you decide that you are OK with the transfer or even resubmittal process with new owner I would approach CDs with a cover your ass mentality, you have no idea if the new owner is going to be some litigious fuck and you don't want to find yourself in a situation where they are in construction and start trying to hold you responsible for every little E&O that is fairly typical on residential work.  Make the tightest set of CDs you ever though possible then add some general notes that cover your ass even more.  "guarantee not guaranteed!"

Nov 12, 13 5:39 pm

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