Check Permits Before Purchase

It can be a hassle to go through your local building department permit procedure when you make changes to your home. You or your contractor must apply for permits, pay fees and meet building inspectors to approve the work in progress. Sometimes there are complicating factors.

Recently, sellers of a home in decided to have wood-destroying pest work done before their home went on the market to make the property more appealing. The contractor applied for a permit and the plan for the repair work was approved by the city. City inspectors inspected the job twice while the work was being done. When a different inspector came out to give final approval, he refused to do so and required that more work be done.

Why should homeowners go through this aggravation and expense when they can do the work more quickly and save money by skipping permits? Even though the permit process doesn’t always work efficiently, there are good reasons to apply for permits for work that requires permits, and to actually obtain those permits.

There is no guarantee that permitted work was done correctly. Inspectors are human and can make mistakes. A certain amount of subjectivity is involved. Two inspectors could have different opinions about how something should be done, as in the case above.

However, permitted work is more likely to meet building code requirements than is work done without permits.

A possible repercussion from unpermitted work is that the next time you or a future owner applies for a permit, the building department might require that unpermitted work be permitted retroactively.

This could result in penalty fees in addition to the permit fee. For example, if an inspector were to notice a new bathroom in an old house, he might require that the bathroom be put through the permit approval process before approving the permit on the current work being done. This could involve opening walls so that the plumbing can be inspected.