I was reading a blog earlier about an agent that was trying to get someone’s buyer to sign a waiver on a home that it was safe and that it didn't need any permits for the remodeling that it had underwent. Click here to read that blog. This got me to thinking so I decided to write a little on building permits.
Building permits are a requirement in many jurisdictions in the country. These permits are enacted in order for the protection of the residents and for the local government to ensure the contractors are staying within the codes set forth by the building codes. Many people believe these permits aren't necessary or view them as burden, thinking the permits fees are very expensive. In most counties and cities I have worked, the fees for the permits are either calculated by a percentage of the total building cost, or by a flat fee. Depending upon the local area, you may need a permit for construction, electrical, plumbing, zoning, and other changes made to your property. Also dependant upon the local codes to when a permit is required varies from local to local. In some locals just changing a light switch or an outlet will require an issuance of electrical permit.
Many people run across those contractors who will insist that you don't need permit. There can be many reasons why this particular contractor is insistent upon not obtaining a permit, it can be because they don't hold the valid license for the type of work required by state laws, don't have the local business license, no insurance, or even perhaps they been in a legal proceedings that has forbid them from doing business in that particular location. If you have any doubt that a permit is required for your project feel free to give your local building inspector a call or visit your local building department and ask questions. It's better to ask now and then later try to play dumb when you are caught without a permitted structure that the building code enforcement can require you to bring it into compliance or worst to demolish it and start all over.
My advice when buying a property is to be sure that any structural changes or additions were properly permitted by the local government or you could find yourself holding the liability of paying for the other property owner’s negligence.