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Nintendo79 02-24-2012 10:37 PM

Additional apartment without permits
My fiance's family is thinking of selling their multifamily home. 2 of the the apartments are legal. The third apartment was created by converting there attic with out permits about 15 years ago. They never collected income from this apartment because it was used by a family member so there is no income tax violations. They want to apply for permits because they want the increase value for the home at the time of the sale. I know there will be fines and they could possibly be asked to tear it down. Could they be assessed back taxes as well?

joecaption 02-24-2012 10:47 PM

Only one way to find out. Ask local building dept.
Not likly, but in the future they may.
The worst that can happen is an inspector will show up and ask for corrections be made to bring it up to code and a double permit fee charged if they want to be butt heads.

A Squared 02-26-2012 12:50 PM

There's really no way to give a useful answer without:

a) knowing where this is


b) knowing what the laws and policies are in that jurisdiction.

There are plenty of places where this would be unlikely to come to any official attention, even during a sale.

Other places this will come to the authorities attention, and they would take a scorched earth approach to dealing with it.

No way to tell without being familiar with that particular city/county/whatever.

chrisBC 02-26-2012 12:54 PM

I would hope there is a window or other egress in the attic, otherwise they will probably want one in.

A Squared 02-26-2012 12:58 PM


Originally Posted by joecaption (Post 862544)
The worst that can happen is an inspector will show up and ask for corrections be made to bring it up to code and a double permit fee charged if they want to be butt heads.

There are a lot of far worse things that can happen. Some jurisdictions will make you tear down unpermitted improvements, even if there's not a code compliance issue. Not saying this is what will happen to the OP, I'm just saying that being required purchase a permit retroactively and bring the project into code compliance is on the gentle end of the spectrum of things that can happen.

Some places adopt the philosophy that merely requiring the purchase of a permit, is a lot like just telling bank robbers to give the money back when caught, so they take a more punative approach as a deterrent. Not saying I agree with this, but I can at least understand the logic.

Daniel Holzman 02-26-2012 01:27 PM

This is an interesting dilemma they are in. My town wrestles with this sort of issue fairly frequently. The first thing you need to realize is that there are usually three different boards who have an interest in what you construct, sometimes four. The first is the planning board, which may have authority over apartments (mine does). In my town, the planning board has no direct authority to levy fines or take further action, but they can and do refer cases to the building inspector for action.

The second board would be the zoning board of appeals. Conversion of a single family house to multifamily, which sounds like what you did, requires ZBA approval in my town, independent of the planning board. The ZBA can and does routinely deny permits to convert single family use to multi-family. If you go ahead and convert anyway, they can and do refer the violation to the building inspector for further action.

The third board would be the Conservation Commission, which takes a very active interest in expansions near wetlands. You probably have no issue here, since it sounds like the footprint was not expanded.

The fourth board in my town, may not be applicable in yours, is the Board of Health. They have jurisdiction over septic permits. Addition of a bedroom, or conversion of a single family to multi-family, would almost certainly trigger the need for a septic system review, and might require replacement or upgrade of the system. If you are on Town sewer, conversion may require addition of meters for water usage, and (rarely) a separate sewer service.

The rubber meets the road at the building inspector, who has the authority to order removal of illegally installed improvements. There are procedures for fines as well. This all goes through Town Counsel.

By the way, there is a fifth board that is probably very interested in the conversion, this would be the Board of Assessors. In my town, the Board of Assessors is required to value all the property at least once every three years, and to assign the appropriate tax rate to it. Commercial property and multi-family are taxed at a different rate than single family. If an improvement is made, but not permitted, the Board of Assessors may well take the position that you owe back taxes plus penalty.

You have a pretty complex situation, certainly no one on a DIY chat forum can help you resolve it. I think you are going to need a real estate attorney who can offer confidential advice on how to handle the issue.

md2lgyk 02-27-2012 07:03 AM

I'd be willing to bet the bedroom in this attic apartment doesn't have a legal egress window. No telling what else might be wrong as well.

havalife 02-28-2012 10:14 PM

I saw this same thing on TV last week, guy bought a duplex or something and the attic was converted, he was a good buyer so he removed the room. I think this was on something like "Boston Remodel" ..

The Hammer 03-04-2012 11:55 AM

I had the exact situation, after 17 years of having a family member living in an illegal attic apartment I wanted to legalize it. One problem was my community had put a moratorium, that I was unaware of, on 2 to 3 family conversions the year before. Having been frustrated more than once trying to get things done the "right" way this time I was going to take another route. I decided to start supporting ( contributions/lawn signs/10 to 15 hours of donated time) a long term selectman. I had a fire escape installed, galvanized so the newness wasn't obvious. I then informed my selectman of my problem and made an appointment to appear in front of the board of appeals. I was informed before the meeting that I was all set. Four people appeared for the same thing only one exception was approved, mine. It's sad to admit this but if you can't beat them join them.

The Hammer 03-04-2012 11:56 AM

Sorry for the duplicate post

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