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Old 05-01-2008, 10:55 AM   #1
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Renovations done without permits - consequences???


Work done without permit
I currently reside in Rhode Island. I regret to say that my husband and I have done work to our house without pulling permits. Please, don't lecture. I'm fully regretting not doing the process correctly. We have relocated the sink and gas stove, have installed recessed lighting in the kitchen and added a closet (removing a supporting wall). My husband works in construction, and we're confident everything is done correctly., However we're wondering what kind of problems would this cause for homeowers insurance? Could they drop us because of these unpermitted renovations, or just not cover any incident which these renovations caused (such as fire, water leak, etc)? We recently received a call from our homeowners insurance company saying they need to perform an inspection, however we're nervous because of the unpermitted changes we've made. Do you think they might report this to the building inspector of the city, and therefore causing us many headaches with fines?

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Old 05-01-2008, 12:01 PM   #2
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Renovations done without permits - consequences???


I'm not sure of the laws in RI but in Illinois, you are allowed to pull a permit as a home owner. If your husband is/was able to do the work properly, you would have been ok. The process is the same where you'd submit plans for the particular project. Upon receiving the permit, you'd do the work and have inspections as necessary. When you are done, you're legit and wouldn't have issues. Now for the bad news; technically if your county finds out about not having permits, they can fine you all the way to actually having you remove whatever work you had completed. I have no idea if your insurance company has any recourse on the illegal work performed or how they'd even know anything was done in the first place.
Hopefully this will be a lesson to anyone thinking about performing such work themselves. Permits (aside from making the county money) are actually there to protect home owners from unsafe conditions.

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Old 05-01-2008, 02:27 PM   #3
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Renovations done without permits - consequences???


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Do you think they might report this to the building inspector of the city, and therefore causing us many headaches with fines?
Only if they want to lose a customer. If you take your car to an autobody shop do they call the cops to see if you reported the accident? It would be insane for a business to try to cause legal problems for their good paying customers - wouldn't it?

But, you obviously should have pulled all required permits. I can't think of any ethical reason not to.
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Old 05-01-2008, 02:55 PM   #4
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Renovations done without permits - consequences???


Dig through your old insurance paperwork and try and find your full disclosure. It's usually printed on onion skin (bible-paper) - and it's usually thrown away. If you can't find it request it from your insurance company. Get out your magnifying glass and start reading.

- Depending on your disclosure your insurance company could/may drop you.

- Or they could/may refuse to pay for any incident relating to your unpermitted work. This can be worse than being dropped. If you had a fire that could be traced to your new work (your electrical) they could refuse to cover your entire loss.

- And they may refuse to insure any loss of your unpermitted work. Say a tree falls on your house damaging some of your unpermitted work. Your insurance company could/may refuse to pay for all your hard earned DIY remodeling.


Your insurance agent may just drive by as part of an annual inspection. But if they do detect the unpermitted work they may/could report it to the city. Many insurance companies have internal policies that require this sort of reporting.

Sure, nothing may happen; your insurance 'inspection' might be a drive-by, no one may ever know, and you may never have to make a claim against your homeowners insurance. Don't risk the biggest investment of your life by hoping this problem will go away.

Suck it up, find out what you have to do. Most city inspectors will talk to homeowners "anonymously". Give them a call (from a pay phone, if you're paranoid) and tell them what happened. Find out what you have to do. Worst case scenario you have to tear out and start over. Best case scenario you have to pay fines/penalties in order to get your permits.
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Last edited by Leah Frances; 05-01-2008 at 03:04 PM. Reason: to answer the original question
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Old 05-01-2008, 03:35 PM   #5
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Renovations done without permits - consequences???


jogr - I don't know if ethical is the word for it. We did it ourselves not only for the satisfaction of it, but to save money. We're penny pinchers unfortunately, but I'm sure there are many of us in this day and age (hence people syphoning gas to sell it at a discounted price). We regret not pulling the permits...but we're here now, and need to find out where to go next.

Leah Frances - Thanks for the input. I'll have to dig through our paperwork and see if I can find what you're referring to. And I think I will place a call to the building inspector to see what's up...anonymously of course. I wonder if the type of work depends on the penalty? More than likely I would assume.
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Old 05-01-2008, 03:48 PM   #6
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Renovations done without permits - consequences???


Most cities won't fine you if the work is already done. You can place an anonymous call to the inspector and voice your concerns about wanting to be legal, and see what they say. Offer to pay for the permit and ask if they'd be comfortable coming in and just doing a final inspection. They can always cover their backside by having you assume all liability for concealed work in writing, but they can see quite a lot without having to tear into your walls. I would offer to write a letter assuming liability for concealed items and assuring that they were done per code, because if they're smart, they won't. Removal of electrical cover plates, for instance, can tell me a lot about whether or not the person that wired it had any idea of what they were doing. They might ask for an air pressure test of the new sections of gas line as well.

In the majority of cases with an interior renovation (if the inspector is willing to work with you instead of against you), the bulk of the work can be seen without destructive measures. The removal of a load bearing wall concerns me, and in my jurisdiction, you'd be required to involve a structural engineer if I'm not given the opportunity to look at it before the sheetrock goes up.

Honestly, your insurance company probably has no idea where you made changes unless the work is still going on. I doubt they'll tell on you if they catch the changes, but they very well may limit their own liability since the work wasn't permitted.

No disrespect intended toward your husband, but I can assure you that there are a lot of very good builders out there that think they are doing something right, but are somehow creating an unsafe condition. I often find big problems in the work of competent people (even guys with 30 years or more in the trades) that had no idea that they were making a mistake. That is the whole reason for inspections...A second set of eyes is always a good thing no matter how good you are at what you do. As an inspector, I always pull permits just because I don't want to overlook something...And I don't want to be a hypocrite (since I make everyone else pull permits).
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Old 05-01-2008, 03:50 PM   #7
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Renovations done without permits - consequences???


When you talk to the inspector STRESS that your are sorry and will never do it again. Don't beg ignorance, just be very very sorry. Also don't forget to ask, specifically, what they will inspect and what they want to see. It is likely that you will have to expose your new wiring and plumbing for the inspection

Best of luck, hopefully, they will work with you to try and get you into compliance.
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Old 05-01-2008, 03:55 PM   #8
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Renovations done without permits - consequences???


Thank you for the words of wisdom. :-) Hopefully these building inspectors will have as open mind as you seem to have. ;-) I'll definately keep your suggestions in mind.
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Old 05-01-2008, 04:15 PM   #9
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Renovations done without permits - consequences???


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Thank you for the words of wisdom. :-) Hopefully these building inspectors will have as open mind as you seem to have. ;-) I'll definately keep your suggestions in mind.
No problemo.

It really will vary from city to city. In the last city I worked for, we'd work with you. In the city I now work for, they lean a lot harder, and you'd be paying a fine and also paying for a permit. However, once the work is done, everyone needs to be proactive to get to everyone's desired end result...Safe and compliant work. Punitive action seems unnecessary to me at this stage in the game, but they also shouldn't reward you for not following the law.

The advice that Leah Francis gave is excellent advice. Admit guilt right away and don't play ignorant. I wouldn't tell them your motives for wanting the inspection (insurance)...I'd tell them that you have a guilty conscience and want a safe house. As an inspector, I wouldn't have much sympathy for someone who's getting screwed by the insurance man because they didn't get a permit, and now regrets not getting the permit. It would be adviseable to remain anonymous until you determine how they are going to react.
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Old 05-01-2008, 04:15 PM   #10
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Post back up and let us know how it works out!
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Old 10-04-2011, 11:49 AM   #11
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Renovations done without permits - consequences???


I would do this:

Get a permit - Expose electrical and gas lines - not 100%, but enough for an inspector to view and verify your work. Get an inspection - pass the inspection - done.

:shrug:

I had issues with home-done work that the previous owners of this house did and instead of redoing all of their work I just exposed it - fixed what wasn't up to par when I drew a permit for my own work and then had their work inspected. It was drama free.
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Old 10-04-2011, 11:55 AM   #12
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Renovations done without permits - consequences???


The consequences of having done this work without pulling permits is gong to depend almost entirely on local codes. Some municipalities are pretty loose, while others require permits for literally everything.

The only time I've had a brush with this was when I did some work on our acreage house and honestly did not know that the COUNTY was even more strident with codes than any city. I ended up having to pay double for the building permit, in arrears, but that was all.
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Old 10-04-2011, 01:50 PM   #13
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Renovations done without permits - consequences???


This happened to me once. My gas hot water went on me, and having no clue i needed to pull a permit to do a direct replacement, i went out and bought a new one and installed it. 4 or 5 years later when i was selling the house a city inspector dropped by to issue a new Certificate of Occupancy for the people that were trying to buy my house. During the "visit", the inspector inquired about the age of the water heater and asked who installed ( I later found out that when you pull a permit and pass inspection they put a sticker on the heater and the inspector was suspicious because i didn't have the sticker on my heater). I told him that i did it, and he actually went as far to compliment me on my work, never indicating that anything was wrong. A few days later i get a notice in the mail saying that i need to get a permit and insepection done in 7 days or risk fines of $100 per day until it gets done. Needless to say I was unpleasently surprised by this.

I ended up having to pay for a plumber to come out and inspect the chimney and work, as well as for the permit and final inspection, but it was nothing more than i would have had to have paid as if i did it in the first place, so it turned out to be no big deal, other than the added stress of trying to do all this while in the process of moving. It was a good lesson in the benefit of doing it right the first time
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Old 10-04-2011, 02:21 PM   #14
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You could just call them and see what they say - you know - they'd know first hand what you can expect to have happen.
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Old 10-04-2011, 04:45 PM   #15
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You could just call them and see what they say - you know - they'd know first hand what you can expect to have happen.
This is an old post.
Seems RI takes a hard line on this. The both of them were executed last June.
The poor dumb bastards.

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