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Old 05-08-2009, 10:14 AM   #1
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building permit violation


I want to have a contractor install a direct vent gas fireplace. This will require both gas and electrical permits, and inspections. The problem is I finished my basement (diy: framing, electrical and plumbing) about 5 years ago without any permits.

If an inspector comes into my home is he likely to take notice of prior work and cite me for permit violations? The inspectors would have to examine both the electrical service and gas manifold which are located in the basement. Although I tried to follow all building codes, what if they observed a code violation?

How do I resolve this issue? I know that building code laws are local, but what are the legal implications? Does anyone have any experience in a similar situation? Any advice?

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Old 05-08-2009, 10:45 AM   #2
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building permit violation


They can make your rip it out
Or rip out the drywall for inspection
Yes you can be cited & fined
A code violation they would probably make you hire someone to fix it
And if anything does not meet code then all of your work will come under closer scrutiny

Best bet is to go down & apply for a permit after the fact
Only your local Inspector can answer/decide what will be done

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Old 05-08-2009, 11:02 AM   #3
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building permit violation


Come clean. Go down and talk to them.

I have to ask, and this might give everyone some insight, what were the reasons why you didn't get a permit in the first place?

When I talk to my clients, the reasons fall into a couple of categories:

1. Unknown process. They weren't familiar with the the process, so they stayed away from it.
2. Cost. They had a preconceived notion that a permit costs thousands of dollars, or that taxes will skyrocket.
3. Bad advice. Other parties (neighbors, friends, bad contractors) gave them bad advice.
4. Horror stories. They have heard of horror stories or urban legends about mean inspectors, and they wanted to avoid that.

The advice I give always is to confront it head on. Call the building department, ask them what a good time is to come down and ask some questions, and go have a conversation at the desk. Bring a sketch of what you want to do. Ask them if you can see your property's jacket so you can see its history. They really are there to help you.
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Old 05-08-2009, 11:44 AM   #4
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building permit violation


Here non structural framing does not require a permit. I would assume your framing was non structural in your basement. Now electric and plumbing is another story.....

Why not do the fireplace yourself?

I called the inspector here, they were pretty straight forward, and actually nice and helpful. They understand why people avoid them. That said they did tell me that they would want to see wiring connections, plumbing connections etc. on a 3rd floor space in my house finished by a previous homeowner without permit. Which means holes everywhere and then possible redo etc. I'm not ready for that hassle so the finished space will remain off the record for now.

I bought the house this way, don't see a reason I can't sell it this way.

Last edited by harleysilo; 05-08-2009 at 11:47 AM.
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Old 05-08-2009, 11:50 AM   #5
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building permit violation


If he cites you for previous violations................. You better hope he does!!

He inspects to UBC and IRC, minimum safety violations, not something he thinks is wrong. Things that are structural or fire safety, escape routes, etc., that are nation wide minimum standards.

The citations are dangerous things that you are putting yourself and family at risk of life for. And anyone else after you sell the house.

How sad you would be if someone died because you were ignorant or too cheap to build properly.

Even worse, after you found out, you still were apprehensive to get a permit. Here you have the opportunity to set things right, go for it!! Be safe, G
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Old 05-08-2009, 11:54 AM   #6
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building permit violation


I did not get permits for several reasons. First, I had problems with an earlier experience. I had previously built a two story building that took several years to complete because as a do-it-yourselfer I could only work on it on weekends and vacations. I had a permit to do the work, but the inspections had to be postponed and the permit extended multiple times. Ultimately, the local office told me they would close the permit and force me to reapply if I didn't meet a final deadline. With the basement, I knew it would also take me several years to complete.

Secondly, I couldn't afford an electrician to do the work. And finally, I wanted to avoid tax assessment increases...short-sighted I know.

I realize that I've made a big mistake, but I am not financially able to re-do the basement and I'm afraid of what my local code enforcement office would do if I contacted them.
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Old 05-08-2009, 12:15 PM   #7
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building permit violation


Quote:
Originally Posted by harleysilo View Post
I bought the house this way, don't see a reason I can't sell it this way.
Just wait. It's coming. It's all the rage right now in my area. Huge negotiating point. You can tell a buyer to go pound sand or take it or leave it if he asks, but you're violating the disclosure statement if you fail to mention it. Buyer of my house wanted $30k off my price if I didn't have the approval stickers and permit records for my basement, deck, kitchen, and had an assessor document the value of a list of "corrections". I had them all. Every single permit, every single approval sticker, back to 1977 when my town adopted the UCC. I even had the original permit and CO from when the house was built in 1963. There was no negotiation. I didn't have to tell anyone to pound sand. And when I bought a few months later, I got the seller to knock close to $90k off his number because he didn't have any for two completed additions. I let that offer stew for 3 months. He didn't have a leg to stand on, so I got a smokin' deal. All of his hard work and money he poured into a wet bar/entertainment room/cabana addition and BR/Bath addition went down the toilet. I even got money back because the hot tub was relocated without a permit. There had always been one on the property, and the original owner had a permit for it, but this guy moved it across the yard and reran the electrical and relocated a panel without a permit.
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Old 05-08-2009, 03:04 PM   #8
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building permit violation


Apply for your current permits and see what happens. Keep you mouth shut when he shows up and don't ask about your prevoius work not being permitted.
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Old 05-08-2009, 03:30 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by harleysilo View Post
I bought the house this way, don't see a reason I can't sell it this way.
One problem is that much unpermitted remodeling by homeowners is readily discovered by an competent home inspector - even experienced contractors often find that municipal inspectors are requiring them to make changes, and the typical homeowner has a pretty thin chance of not making mistakes that flag their work unpermitted.

When I see this kind of work I'm required to protect both myself and my client to report my suspicions, and my recommendation is going to have to be that the client go down to the city building department and ask them to pull a permit history on the property, the permit clerk is going to ask why, and the next day the electrical, plumbing, and structural inspectors are knocking on the seller's front door.

At which point the seller - even if they decide they are otherwise inclined to "fight City Hall" - almost always end up having to bring the property into code compliance and/or make a substantial adjustment in the sales price to allow the new buyer to do so in order to sell the property.

This may not be "fair", but it's the way it works - from the perspective of the municipal building inspector "I bought it this way" sounds a bit a driver telling a cop he just rear-ended "The brakes were bad when I bought it, and I plan to sell it some day, so I didn't see why I should have to fix them."
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Old 05-08-2009, 03:30 PM   #10
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building permit violation


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Originally Posted by Aggie67 View Post
Just wait. It's coming. It's all the rage right now in my area. Huge negotiating point. You can tell a buyer to go pound sand or take it or leave it if he asks, but you're violating the disclosure statement if you fail to mention it. Buyer of my house wanted $30k off my price if I didn't have the approval stickers and permit records for my basement, deck, kitchen, and had an assessor document the value of a list of "corrections". I had them all. Every single permit, every single approval sticker, back to 1977 when my town adopted the UCC. I even had the original permit and CO from when the house was built in 1963. There was no negotiation. I didn't have to tell anyone to pound sand. And when I bought a few months later, I got the seller to knock close to $90k off his number because he didn't have any for two completed additions. I let that offer stew for 3 months. He didn't have a leg to stand on, so I got a smokin' deal. All of his hard work and money he poured into a wet bar/entertainment room/cabana addition and BR/Bath addition went down the toilet. I even got money back because the hot tub was relocated without a permit. There had always been one on the property, and the original owner had a permit for it, but this guy moved it across the yard and reran the electrical and relocated a panel without a permit.
Hot tub permit here is required if the hot tub is indoors. An outdoor hot tub on a patio, no permit. No electrical permit for the new hookup either, but of course it must be done by an electrician.

I don't know for a fact that the previous homeowner did or did not pull a permit. Therefore I have nothing to disclose or not disclose. I don't know when the work was done, for all I know the tax assessors office doesn't have their act together and that's why it's not counted.

My total kitchen renovation down to the walls and subfloor required no permit. My re-leveling of floors, 750 sq. ft of tile, jacking of the house, no permit.

Now when it comes time to finish my basement.....gonna need a permit for electrical and some plumbing. And I think i'll get one then, as I wouldn't want to have to get an inspection after the fact.
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Old 05-08-2009, 03:39 PM   #11
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building permit violation


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Originally Posted by Michael Thomas View Post
One problem is that much unpermitted remodeling by homeowners is readily discovered by an competent home inspector - even experienced contractors often find that municipal inspectors are requiring them to make changes, and the typical homeowner has a pretty thin chance of not making mistakes that flag their work unpermitted.

When I see this kind of work I'm required to protect both myself and my client to report my suspicions, and my recommendation is going to have to be that the client go down to the city building department and ask them to pull a permit history on the property, the permit clerk is going to ask why, and the next day the electrical, plumbing, and structural inspectors are knocking on the seller's front door.

At which point the seller - even if they decide they are otherwise inclined to "fight City Hall" - almost always end up having to bring the property into code compliance and/or make a substantial adjustment in the sales price to allow the new buyer to do so in order to sell the property.

This may not be "fair", but it's the way it works - from the perspective of the municipal building inspector "I bought it this way" sounds a bit a driver telling a cop he just rear-ended "The brakes were bad when I bought it, and I plan to sell it next week, so I didn't see why I should have to fix them."
I don't think asking for permit history gives the building inspector the right to inspect the property. Maybe I'm wrong. Nevertheless it is true that this is the condition in which I bought the property, regardless of how it sounds. I agree that doesn't magically make the work code compliant.

You sound like an honest inspector. I wish our real estate agent had pointed us in the direction of one instead of suggesting the one she always used who was a deal maker and not a deal breaker. He missed a ton of stuff, and probably could have been sued. I learned my lesson. Truth is had he pointed out everything that was wrong, we still would have bought the house. Owner couldn't have sold it any lower unless they were willing to be upside down in paying off their mortgage at closing. You want it you buy it or go find another house type of situation.
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Old 05-08-2009, 03:40 PM   #12
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I think generally speaking building codes etc. are much more strictly enforced north of the mason-dixon line.....
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Old 05-08-2009, 04:54 PM   #13
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building permit violation


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Originally Posted by harleysilo View Post
I think generally speaking building codes etc. are much more strictly enforced north of the mason-dixon line.....
Wow - I am shocked and offended by this statement even with all the bickering that goes on in this forum (sometimes initiated or encouraged by yours truly). What an ignorant and prejudiced statement.

I find building codes etc are strictly enforced by conscientious inspectors, not by geography.
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Old 05-08-2009, 04:59 PM   #14
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I'm an inspector...
If he's the only inspector in the town he may know your house and may know that the basement wasn't previously finished. If there are multiple inspectors the odds are that it probably won't raise any eyebrows. Most of us don't do a total historical search of a house when we're just there to look at a fireplace....But it could happen.

You made a big mistake in avoiding the process a few years ago. Inspectors are not there to hinder your project, they're there to be your advocate as a homeowner...To make sure everything is correct and safe. You'd probably find that the inspector isn't your adversary and can serve as an excellent resource for you during your project in many capacities.

As for taxes, this is a capitalist society and you have to pay to play. Tax avoidance is one of many sorry excuses for avoiding getting a permit and the necessary inspections.
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Old 05-08-2009, 07:46 PM   #15
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How would an inspector know if something was added..? When they get called for an inspection do they check the history so they know what should and shouldn't be there..?
A few years back we had a new home built, and we had a deck build off of the upstairs master BR. The guy that built it was the same guy that worked for the contractor, but we hired him on the side. We had an inspector out for something years later, and he spotted it immediately, even though it matched all the decks which were permitted.
We ended up paying a small increase in property tax. It wasn't much and we sold the home a while later.
We have a rental home built in 1952 in a rural area of Oregon. The city has no records of the home because it was built so long ago.
Last year we did some remodeling without permit. There was no bathroom downstairs, just a laundry room with a comode in it. Across from the hall from the laundry room was an unfinished room previously used for storing canned goods. The room was Finished to match the house on the outside, it had electricity on the inside, but just stud walls and shelves for can goods on the inside.
We finished the room, moved the washer/dryer into that room, and remodeled the old laundry room into a modern bathroom with shower/tub with enclosure.
We use the home as a rental, but if we ever decide to sell, how would anyone know of the changes we made...?
I know, I'm a scufflaw, but my renters love me..!

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