Remodeling Without a Permit?

“Why bother with getting a permit?   We will do the job correctly.  Not getting a permit will save you time (no delays waiting for inspections) and money.  There is no need to.”

“In my town the inspectors are pains in the butt and getting a permit is just a waste of time.  Plus I already pay $9,000 in taxes!  Why give them another reason to raise them more?”

Does this sound familiar?

If you get caught doing work without permits, your Planning Department or Building & Safety Department is likely to issue a STOP order and post a very large and conspicuous sign on the front of your house.  Depending upon the infraction, they could then order the removal of all improvements done without permits (which could require demolition permits), force you and your contractor to pay fines, and you would still have to pay for permits, regardless of whether you then go ahead with the work or not.

Not only that, but inspectors are likely to be much more nit-picky than they might have been if you had taken out the proper permits in the first place.  On top of all that, getting through all the red tape is likely to delay your project for weeks or even months.

Inspections can be scheduled by phone and the inspectors will come out the next day.  A good contractor knows this and will schedule the inspection and have something else to do while waiting for the inspector to approve.  It isn’t like you should be waiting weeks for that.

Do you have nosy neighbors?   Or ones that you just do not get along with?  This is the way most homeowners are reported.  It is revenge time!   Even if a neighbor doesn’t report you, sometimes the inspectors drive around and notice work being done at your home when they inspect the work down the street.

The reason for codes and permits is to make sure the work is being done properly.   Not only for you, but for everyone that purchases the house after you.  Remember that when you sell, you have to certify whether all remodeling work included the necessary permits.  If you lie about this and the buyer later discovers it, you can be sued.   And another major reason for obtaining a permit, your insurance company might have grounds to deny a claim if you have a loss related to the unpermitted work.

The major reason for obtaining permits for additions, adding another bathroom, etc., is that your title will then reflect that your home is actually a 3 bedroom, 2 bath rather than a 2 bedroom, 1 bath, thus making your home worth much more at sale time.

You need to be aware that your taxes will increase by the percentage in your area multiplied by the dollar value of the remodel when you obtain the permit.   But, in my opinion, this is a small price to pay for peace of mind:   not having an inspector show up at your door unexpectedly, not worrying about an insurance claim, being able to declare on a seller’s documents that all work was completed with a permit, etc.

You should never work with a contractor who suggested doing work without permits!  If he’s a shady character in one area, he’s likely to be shady in others.

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