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Old 04-17-2018, 09:02 AM   #1
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What to do about un-permitted "mother-in-law s apartment"? Michigan


Hello, my parents live on a small 10 acre farm in oakland county MI. In 2005 my parents built a 30x30 garage with 15x30 attic space. our family turned that space into a full apartment (full bath, kitchen, etc) with a 15x8 deck. all of the work was done to code or above but no permits were pulled. It was a stupid mistake not pulling the permits and has been talked about several times over the years. the only stopping point was the worry that we would have to tare out the cabinets, drywall and tile work to expose the plumbing work and electrical. Now my parents are remodeling the main house and the new building inspector came off as a total dick. Pulled up aerial pictures of the house and complained about things like a tarped up hay pile, a car behind the barn, a trailer etc. and Said verbatim "You know this is a give and take" in regards to getting a permit for the new renovation. now my parents are very worried about the apartment that they are living in while the remodel happens. my mother is convinced that this guy will make us tare the whole apartment down. If this napoleon complex throws a ti-raid what can we do? Ideally it would be great all around if we could pay the fine and get approved and put on because the whole reason for the remodel is to get the house into sell able condition, and a rent able bonus apartment would not only be very attractive but increase our selling price if we could list it. but the kitchen and bath share the same wet wall so it will be a big issue to the expose the pipes. does anyone have any ideas on best and worst case scenario? as well as what should we do?
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Old 04-17-2018, 09:26 AM   #2
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Re: What to do about un-permitted "mother-in-law s apartment"? Michigan


It's not a question of paying the fine & going about your merry way. Find a local architect who has a good relationship with the building dept. & ask him if he can draw & submit plans, to show what's there. I've seen it done before. Of course, anything that isn't up to code will have to be corrected.
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Old 04-17-2018, 09:34 AM   #3
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Re: What to do about un-permitted "mother-in-law s apartment"? Michigan


You need someone local to answer this. Local realtor might be able to answer
your questions for free especially if they expect to get the eventual sale
business. If not you might need to spend some money and get a lawyers advice.
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Old 04-17-2018, 09:39 AM   #4
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Re: What to do about un-permitted "mother-in-law s apartment"? Michigan


Hi mcwille and welcome to the forum.
Can of worms, but you already know that, compounded by some attitude from the inspector. As for his [Said verbatim "You know this is a give and take" in regards to getting a permit for the new renovation.] Did he have his hand out? I worked in NJ for several years and the "extended hand" was standard procedure. But that can be an even bigger can of worms.

My guess is, fess up and let the cards fall where they may, it is HIS town and you need to deal with it. Shift to email or letters to discuss what you need to do, harder for him to be a hard a$$ when documented. Casually check to see how long he has been on the job, new or long established.

The good news would be getting it approved even if it required some deconstruction. Not sure how your town government operates but mine has an appeals board that can settle disputes, should it come to that.

Being honest and throwing yourself to their mercy can work out better than trying to sneak by.

Bud

Sorry my post is out of sequence, I type slow
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Old 04-17-2018, 04:01 PM   #5
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Re: What to do about un-permitted "mother-in-law s apartment"? Michigan


As others have said in so many words, the inspector may be a 'dick', but he is the inspector. Much depends on your zoning. There may be a large difference between an apartment within a dwelling and a separate dwelling, which yours sounds like. Two separate living structures on a single lot are rare unless they are what are calling 'granny flats', which have their own set of rules. If it is an illegal dwelling, all the proper building standards in the world won't make it legal.

Up here, building inspectors enforce building codes; bylaw inspectors deal with zoning and land use issues. Building standards aside, in order to 'make right' a separate dwelling that doesn't comply with zoning you need to find out what is allowed and what you have to do to bring it into compliance, possibly through a variance approved by council. If it is simply a matter of a temporary residence to be used while the main residence is under renovation, that sounds reasonable and is done all the time up here (trailers, mobile homes, etc.). However, I would think there would be expectations that it be inspected for 'reversion' after the renos are complete (i.e. made no longer suitable as a dwelling).

I suggest you contact your municipality's zoning department and seek the assistance of your local councillor or whatever local elected representative your have. Whether or not a lawyer is required depends on on the potential complexity and how much your are willing or able to invest in the process. If it ends up requiring a change to the title, I would recommend a lawyer.

As mentioned, if a 'hand out' is suspected, make sure all of your dealings are documented.

I'm not sure I understand the stated concerns about hay piles and vehicles on a rural property. Again, they may be land use bylaw violations. It is not uncommon to have bylaws against abandoned or derelict vehicles but that it not made clear in the post.
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Old 04-18-2018, 10:51 AM   #6
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Re: What to do about un-permitted "mother-in-law s apartment"? Michigan


Quote:
Originally Posted by mcwille117 View Post
Hello, my parents live on a small 10 acre farm in oakland county MI. In 2005 my parents built a 30x30 garage with 15x30 attic space. our family turned that space into a full apartment (full bath, kitchen, etc) with a 15x8 deck. all of the work was done to code or above but no permits were pulled. It was a stupid mistake not pulling the permits and has been talked about several times over the years. the only stopping point was the worry that we would have to tare out the cabinets, drywall and tile work to expose the plumbing work and electrical. Now my parents are remodeling the main house and the new building inspector came off as a total dick. Pulled up aerial pictures of the house and complained about things like a tarped up hay pile, a car behind the barn, a trailer etc. and Said verbatim "You know this is a give and take" in regards to getting a permit for the new renovation. now my parents are very worried about the apartment that they are living in while the remodel happens. my mother is convinced that this guy will make us tare the whole apartment down. If this napoleon complex throws a ti-raid what can we do? Ideally it would be great all around if we could pay the fine and get approved and put on because the whole reason for the remodel is to get the house into sell able condition, and a rent able bonus apartment would not only be very attractive but increase our selling price if we could list it. but the kitchen and bath share the same wet wall so it will be a big issue to the expose the pipes. does anyone have any ideas on best and worst case scenario? as well as what should we do?

I often dislike code enforcement as much as the next guy, and also dislike that I have to ask for permission to modify something on my house which I own... but getting past my biases, I understand there's good reasons for this.

One thing which immediately stood out to me was the mention of renting the apartment. If you have a space that was done without a permit, that you are renting out, and something catastrophic happens... it's lights out for your financial future. God forbid someone gets hurt and the place burns down... they could sue you for everything you're worth, and more.

I'm certainly not trying to berate you... please don't get that impression... but that's the reason this stuff happens.

In the situation you're in... the only thing.... ONLY THING, you can do is be as humble as possible. I hate to say it, but you have to socially engineer the code and compliance engineers. Different personalities are dealt with by different attitudes. Regardless of why... it sounds like he wants concession. I would do everything he says... get rid of the tarp, get rid of the car (unless it's a classic or something), or find out what needs to happen to make it right.

I'd also talk with a local architect, and have them professionally make up plans to code, and submit them. You're not the first person to find themselves in this situation. Likely, you will need to take down some drywall in order to have things inspected. I also suspect the electrical will be an issue... how did you get power to the building, and was a separate panel installed, or is everything off one circuit, etc.?


More importantly... codes do change from year to year... and the longer you wait, the more you may have to correct.


One thing I will add... you may get some kind of variance with respect to what the new space is used for. If it's considered living space, that's an issue. It may be hard to mask, but if you consider it an unconditioned workspace (like a workshop or what have you), you may be able to get away with a lot more than you otherwise would.


Good luck!
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Old 04-18-2018, 05:30 PM   #7
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Re: What to do about un-permitted "mother-in-law s apartment"? Michigan


Quote:
If you have a space that was done without a permit, that you are renting out, and something catastrophic happens... it's lights out for your financial future. God forbid someone gets hurt and the place burns down... they could sue you for everything you're worth, and more.
All that true but that's only a secondary reason as to why the codes exist. They exist because insurance companies got tired of paying. The head inspector of a small municipality explained that to me.
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Old 04-18-2018, 09:00 PM   #8
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Re: What to do about un-permitted "mother-in-law s apartment"? Michigan


I really think it depends on your local situation. Where I live, in a small town on the eastern slopes of the Cascade mtns in Washington, permits are really a rarity, unless it is obvious from the street like additions or new houses. People have added upstairs apartments, basement apartments, remodeling houses to make them suitable for renting, turning sheds into to rentals, etc mostly without permits. (one of the issues is that if you turn your basement into a rental, the city will charge you $8000+ for that building permit as it counts as another sewer hookup, where or not you modified the plumbing). I've talked to local realtors, and they just shrug and say the lenders don't care.

Not saying it's right or a good system, just that not every locality is going to send the county sheriff over with a wrecking bar to see if you stapled the romex correctly!
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Old 04-19-2018, 06:20 AM   #9
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Re: What to do about un-permitted "mother-in-law s apartment"? Michigan


Good advice was given to move communication to email.

The give and take remarks are very curious though. Certainly not a normal thing to say, as well as the ones about cars and haystacks. Thats exactly the normal thing to see on an acreage.

Call in a Realtor, especially a very popular local one that sells alot of farms. They may have some clout with the inspector. Certainly some are more able to get thru municipal hall than others.
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Old 04-19-2018, 05:59 PM   #10
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Re: What to do about un-permitted "mother-in-law s apartment"? Michigan


One thing people seem to forget about those in the position of authority. They may not win a personality contest or graduated from Harvard, but they know BS when they smell it. When people try to use influential entities to sway them, pull in reinforcement's to build up their position against them...it just pisses them off worse.


Most AHJ appreciate having people just flat out asking them what is on their mind and they will tell you. Once that is done, most people can tell quickly whether a open line of communication has been established and a pathway of solution has been made. Or...

They will be able to tell if the AHJ has a real axe to grind and is going to grind it on their head. THEN, the person knows where they stand, and can start recruiting reinforcement's. Do NOT EVER piss off the AHJ with anticipated "needed" reinforcements first, and then expect a easy road to travel. They can read that book with their eyes closed in the dark. JMO
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Old 05-22-2018, 03:25 PM   #11
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Re: What to do about un-permitted "mother-in-law s apartment"? Michigan


To the comments about finding someone that has some clout or influence with the inspector, he is too new for that he was only voted in to the position a little more than over a year ago. however it has come to our attention that 3 big builders in the area have walked away and refuse to work in our township over this inspector. I don't know all the reasons, but these are not builders that do shoddy work. There is currently a legal battle over a house being built. Where the inspector threw a fit about a shed being put up to house tools and a garden tractor while the house was being built. Made them tare down the shed and won't let them continue work on the house. I don't know all details and this is second hand from the neighbor. but the legal battle is over tearing down all the work up until now and starting over. All over a code violation of a structure going up before the house was completed.

As for the electrical, when that garage was built we had the intention of doing what we are in the process of doing now, but the market tanked and my parents didn't have $150K needed to do the house. So the main line coming in was brought underground up to the garage with a split after the meter to a 200 amp service panel in the garage and another 200 amp panel in the house. All electrical work was done by a licensed master electrician and was done well above code.
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Old 05-22-2018, 03:37 PM   #12
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Re: What to do about un-permitted "mother-in-law s apartment"? Michigan


If the inspector is chasing away revenue from the town it wont be long before he is forced to change his attitude. If he has a ton of complaints and lawsuits going on he may just be a little more lenient these days.
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