In the press

By Shai Raveh, Attorney at Law and Victoria Gordin, Attorney at Law.
The article was published in The Marker, Ha'aretz, on  30/6/2006, and on the site of the Israel Institute for Occupational Safety & Hygiene on  27


There is an old saying which goes: "During his lifetime, a man must become a father, plant a tree and build a home". There are some people, and they are the majority, who make do with purchasing an apartment or a house that was built by a contractor, however there are still a few people who insist on building their home with their own hands.

Those people who follow the path of the old saying don't always bother to take into consideration the demands of modern times: the person who builds a home in the State of Israel does not even bother to ask himself – let alone his lawyer – whether he is allowed to build the house alone, from its foundations to its roof, or whether he is required to seek the assistance of professionals along the way. In this article, we shall present to the person who builds his own home the steps which are necessary during the build.

Can you plan the house without seeking the assistance of an architect?
It is reasonable to assume that there are not many brave people, who are not architects by profession, who would want to plan their own homes themselves. It is advisable to contract with an architect, who will plan the house in the optimal manner, without superfluous costs and according to a reasonable time frame, and will provide minimal supervision services to the project. In any event, the planning of the structure must be accompanied by a construction engineer, who also signs the building plans.

Does Israeli law allow you to build your own home?
It depends on the type and scope of the work. The matter is formalized in the Contractor Registration Law and in the regulations enacted by virtue thereof, according to which construction works whose scope exceeds a given amount shall only be performed by a registered contractor with the suitable classification, in accordance with the type and scope of the work.

In each sector and sub-sector which are specified in the regulations, it is necessary to examine the scope of the work, and if the scope exceeds the amount specified, then you must contract with registered contractors as required by law.

Are you allowed to build the skeleton of your own home?
According to Regulation 2 of the Contractor Registration Regulations, works relating to the skeleton shall be performed by registered contractors only, even if the scope thereof does not exceed the amounts set forth above. For this reason, for the purpose of the construction of the skeleton, you must contract with a registered skeleton contractor, as required by law.

Do you have to employ a foreman?
You are required to employ a certified foreman by law, who will supervise all the works at the site. In addition to the other safety requirements, the Work Safety Regulations require the presence of a foreman during all the hours of operations at the site.

Who is responsible for damages that could be caused following an accident at the work site? How can the risks be decreased?
The foreman is responsible for work safety at the site. If no foreman is present at the site, the performing entity shall be deemed to be the foreman, in terms of the responsibility - and if we are talking about someone who is building their own home, then that person shall be deemed to be the foreman, including everything implied therein, in addition to the offense entailed in the non-employment of a foreman.
 In addition, you are required to attend to insurance coverage suitable for the construction works – not only third party insurance, but also special insurance for the construction works.

What are the additional risks to which the builder is exposed and how can the risks be decreased?
Additional risks to which a person who is building their own home or a client ordering construction works may be exposed are:
1. Criminal exposure.
2. Administrative exposure, whereby the authorities may halt the building or fine the performing entity.
3. Exposure to damages claims, including in respect of accidents at the site, bodily injuries to trespassers and claims in respect of building defects.
4. Exposure to claims from sub-contractors and their workers, at the level of the labor laws and social conditions.

In order to reduce the said risks, insofar as possible, it is necessary to build a system of contracts, through an attorney, which formalizes the relations between the parties.

Can you rely on oral agreements with sub-contractors?
Although Israeli law recognizes the validity of an oral agreement, this modus operandi is not recommended when it comes to agreements in the construction sector, which may prevent or reduce the risks set forth above. It is possible, for example, to transfer in an agreement the responsibility to the contractor or the foreman, and to require them to insure their work. In the agreements, it is also possible to define the relationship between the parties as that of a "client – building contractor" relationship, so as to prevent claims of the existence of an employer – employee relationship between the parties, by virtue of which the employee is entitled to various social rights. In addition, it is possible to receive indemnity and insurance from the contractors, etc.
 While you should not be deterred from building your own home, it is, nevertheless, important to stress that this is a matter which is formalized in many laws and regulations, and it entails no small number of risks, which the person building their own home must be aware of, must act in accordance therewith, and must know how to seek the help of professionals – both for specific advice and for supervision of the entire building process.

Guidelines for Building your Own Home