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Red Truck 02-15-2010 02:14 PM

I understand the need for permits. Permits make sure the job is done right and to code for safety purposes.
I plan on doing a job in my house that does not require any structural work or plumbing at all. I know pretty much all the major codes and know how to do the work. I will sub out the electrical to a licensed professional. Does anyone know any consequences that could occur from not getting a permit? Possible concerns if you were to sell the house, insurance, ect...

Big Bob 02-15-2010 02:31 PM

11 plus pages very good info and discussion on this topic

Daniel Holzman 02-15-2010 03:39 PM

The reason for permits is more complex than just safety and "making sure the job is done right". Pulling a permit does not guarantee that a job is done right, since it is not the responsibility of the code enforcement officer to determine if the job is done right, merely that the installation meets code so far as they can tell.

The origin of building codes goes back to Hammarabi, whose building code prescribed an eye for an eye approach, i.e. if a builder built a house, and that house fell down and killed the son of the owner, the builders son would be killed. Pretty aggressive.

Modern codes began some time around the turn of the century, I believe as a reaction to several horrific fires that needlessly killed workers (read Triangle Building in New York) and ordinary citizens. The belief was that creation of building codes would improve safety of construction, and that remains the fundamental justification for building codes to this day.

However, building codes have morphed into a means of controlling construction practices. For example, if PEX tubing is not permitted under your building code, you cannot use it. Similarly, if a licensed electrician is required to install wiring in your jurisdiction, you cannot do your own work unless you happen to be licensed. So the original purpose of promoting safety has changed to promote safety and protect trades people against low cost competition by (presumably) incompetent workers, and to protect specific types of products (read copper pipe) against less costly and (presumably) unproven materials like PEX.

So back to your question. If you perform work without a permit, the following bad things could potentially happen:

1. If the building inspector finds out (read nosy neighbor), you could be required to rip out the installation, or redo the installation, or hire a professional to fix the installation. And possibly receive a fine.

2. Several people on tis forum have noted that unapproved work can become a problem when you sell your house, especially if an inspection reveals that it does not meet code. Personally I believe you are most likely to have an issue if you perform obvious expansion or structural work such as building an addition, or raising a roof. Relatively minor activities like replacing an outlet, painting a wall, or retiling a bathroom probably do not need a permit. More extensive modifications, such as removing a wall, probably do need a permit, but might not be noticed by an inspector when you sell your house.

3. Some people on this forum have claimed that unpermitted work can trigger a rejection of an insurance claim, especially if the insurer determines that the unpermitted work was the cause of the problem, i.e faulty wiring by the homeowner done without a permit could trigger a rejection of a fire claim. I am not certain this reasoning is correct, as my understanding of insurance regulations suggests that insurance covers perils such as fires regardless of cause, with the exception of arson. However, you would need to read your policy, and even then my experience is that hardly anyone actually understands their policy, so it is possible that there are policies out there that would cause a rejection of a claim based on faulty, unpermitted work.

4. Several people on this forum have argued that unpermitted work reduces the value of your house, on the theory that an inspector may note the unpermitted work, and you as owner will not receive as much value for the work as you would have if it had been permitted.

william duffer 02-15-2010 09:51 PM

Permit or no Perit
Here is my theory, do the right thing and you cant go wrong. If you have to ask yourself you probably need one. If you think you need one and you don't get one than be prepared to accept the consequences.

Termite 02-15-2010 10:06 PM


Originally Posted by william duffer (Post 400600)
Here is my theory, do the right thing and you cant go wrong. If you have to ask yourself you probably need one. If you think you need one and you don't get one than be prepared to accept the consequences.

Well said.

The vast majority of professional builders don't know the code well enough to pass every inspection. I inspect professionals' work for a living. The odds of a DIYer knowing them as thoroughly as they need to to pass off the inspection process as unnecessary are very, very low in my experience.

If you need another reason, nosey neighbors are everywhere. Numerous times in my career I have had phonecalls from neighbors turning in their neighbors for unpermitted work of all kinds. I recently got a call from a guy letting me know his neighbor had gutted his kitchen. He asked that I not disclose who tipped me off because he and the neighbor drink wine together every weekend at each others homes. It happens. Where I work it costs a lot of money to get caught without a permit...A lot more than a permit would've cost.

Advocate for yourself as a DIYer, homeowner and as someone who probably strives to do the job right. Get your work inspected so there's not a doubt in your mind.

Wildie 02-16-2010 02:23 PM

Over and above the preceding posts, tax assessment is based on the value of a property and presumably a renovation project will add value!
The municipal assessment office needs to be informed, so that the property assessment can be properly adjusted!

concretemasonry 02-16-2010 02:33 PM

The permit will also allow an addition to be included in the living area for property evaluation for future buyers and a low valuation will limit the purchasers.


johnnyboy 02-16-2010 10:40 PM

This question is asked a million times. You take a gamble not pulling permits. If you're going to do it right, might as well spend $100 and save yourself the stress.

But of course everyone has there own circumstance and you sure as heck wouldn't be the first guy to skip the permits. All depends on where you live I guess, and if you trust your neighbors.

brandonmcginnis 02-17-2010 07:43 PM

If you think you might need a permit, you're probably right. Call your local inspection office and follow their directions to the letter.

noahweb 02-17-2010 07:50 PM

How big is the work. Your biggest concern is .... what are the chances an inspector will drive by, see work being done in his area, and know that no permit has been pulled. And if that happens, he shuts you down, and the results could be expensive (a lot more expensive than a permit and the hassle of an inspection or two)

Leah Frances 02-17-2010 09:16 PM


Originally Posted by noahweb (Post 401781)
How big is the work. Your biggest concern is .... what are the chances an inspector will drive by, see work being done in his area, and know that no permit has been pulled.

NO NO NO. Your biggest concern is that you have some disaster at your home - say a fire. Your insurance company does an inspection before writing you a check and discovers your un-permitted work (and BELIEVE YOU ME - I've been present for these inspections - and they look for it!) and DENIES YOU COVERAGE.

Seriously, as an attorney I have witnessed insurance companies denying these claims. Not because the un-permitted work caused the problem [and this is the important part] because you most likely VIOLATE your insurance policy by doing un-permitted work.

The worst case scenario of no permits is LOSING your house. It's the biggest investment in your life. What kind of person gambles on this?

hyunelan2 02-18-2010 09:11 AM


Originally Posted by Red Truck (Post 400330)
I will sub out the electrical to a licensed professional.

In the city I work for, if a company/professional was doing the work - they won't do the work without a permit.

Here, if they did work without a permit and got caught, they risk not only fines, but losing their city contractor's registration permit, meaning they can't work anywhere in our city.

Scuba_Dave 02-18-2010 09:55 AM

I wanted to build a small greenhouse off the back of my house
7x10 so less then 70 sq ft so maybe a permit not needed
But its attached to the house - no entrance from the house
And it was less then the 15' required from the property line
So by getting a permit & having them check the location & approve it I am safe from ever having someone tell me I need to tear it down

My "out" for the property line issue was a pre-existing "foundation"
Since I still have over 12' from the property line & the neighbors house is not nearby they allowed it

concretemasonry 02-18-2010 10:19 AM

Dave -

Make sure you save that permit or a copy. It will be worth a lot when you go sell and the buyer brings up "what ifs", since he will lose a bargaining chip because of it. -You are now officially "grandfathered".


Scuba_Dave 02-18-2010 10:33 AM

We are hoping to never move & never sell
But yes I save all my paperwork & permits/approvals
We are on a 1st name basis with the building Dept :laughing:

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