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Hi all,


Would anyone know how to get past building permits and related records in NJ? Just moved here, looking to buy a house, and can't find any information as to how or where to get these from.
 

· retired framer
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Some cities are real funny with that stuff, some really look at the privacy issue, wouldn't thieves to get the plans to every house. The trouble is they never just say that. Engineers seem to have no problem getting them. I guess if you were making an offer you could make that information part of the contract and make the seller figure it out.
 

· Remodel and New Build GC
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Have you asked at the local building department. In Colorado, I can pull them up on the local county internet pages/sites. (Not all counties,,,depends on their site sophistication)
 

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I would think most jurisdictions have at least the preliminary information online now.


The cities and counties I have experiences with you can pretty much look up anything online via their web site. Just basic permit records like dates, nature of work, status, value, inspection records etc...nothing too deep and it's for someone who might just want to ask "how old is this roof" or "was the front fence put in legally" type questions.


Typically I see two piles of information delineated by age. There is usually a year when they decided to automate. For example 2002, so in our city if you are looking for information after 2002, you can get basic information online from their permitting database which is just another layer of the GIS system. Anyone can look that up. If you want more information behind each permit, you have to actually walk into the building department and request them. Most times they do not question you, just an address and they can dig it up...and charge you for each page you request. It's public records and anyone has rights. Sometimes they would ask "are you the owner?" but they can't really refuse access. You could be a potential buyer, a plumber or electrician looking at old records to figure out things before repairs, a real estate agent or service for due diligence during a purchase inspection...


The records prior to the year of automation, they would have somewhere else. Sometimes it's a whole new section of the building or even a different building in a different part of the city, which may be named building archives. Those are the really old records, and many of them were never digitized and are either on paper or microfilms. If you are looking for say the original floor plans of the house in say 1057 then most likely you will find them on archives looking at microfilms.


I know one city around here they have microfilm permit information for anything prior to 1995 in archives, but from 1970 to 1976 all information is missing because termites ate the microfilms in one room. Then they have electronic information from 1996 to 2010 on their computer database but not made available online and you have to go to the building services to request those information, they will look it up on their computers and print it for you (this I believe done so they can charge you $.50 per page of whatever you need), you can also request to look at the paper records and they will bring it out for you to review, and many times you will find stuff in the paper pile that's not online. Then after 2010 you can look at online.


Sometimes you also find building information in neighbor cities or the county the city is in. I often find original building plans in the county building department because the city didn't incorporate until later. Typically the older the property the more hunting you have to do.
 

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In bergen county, nj. Each town has a building inspection office. You pick up the image application form and include asked info as well as a drawing of the plan. Electric, plumbing and hvac each has separate forms that you include in the master folder. There are fees. One town accepted my cost estimate (low because it was mostly diy work), but the current town will not. The cost must be as if the work was pro contracted. Just another form of blood sucking. Roof inspection was a joke.



Towns will not give you any info on houses that you don't own. Buying a house, you must get it inspected. Real estate agent will recommend an inspector, but if you have a lawyer, ask for a recommendation. Real estate agents and the inspectors have mutually benefitting relationship and many, many houses will not pass harsh look. If possible, get experienced (usually meaning older) carpenter to thoroughly inspect the house. Another is vinyl siding. It is rarely installed with care. Door openings, esp leading out to a deck, could be problem areas where there could be rots, small or big.
 

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When we bought a house in NY our lawyer got information from the building department confirming that everything on the property had been permitted and approved. Sometimes people find out later that a previous owner didn’t get a permit for an improvement and it is still a violation.
 
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New Jersey is one of the most anal parts of the country when it comes to requiring permits and inspections for remodel and repair work. This is good for your situation as the local building permits department will have the paperwork for your house - if they are open and allowing visits by the public.
 

· Remodel and New Build GC
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Not that it will be your issue in NJ.....but I have two experiences with "unpermitted" work.

In Tiburon Ca, when my daughter bought her home, the city had the right (and they used it everywhere) to come into a home for sale and inspect it for unpermitted work. They then required it to be fixed and charged the home with original and 50% penalty on the unpermitted work. It then became a negotiating issue between the buyer/seller as to who paid what.

We decided to take it on, and I believe I had 120 days to complete it. If the work had made a material difference in the home (many people had enclosed their garage leaving the garage door front appearance intact), the home was reappraised for tax purposes.

Second issue that I was not personally involved in was a city (Arvada) in CO that attempted pretty much the same thing. There was such an uprising among the citizens and RE people.....they quietly withdrew their actions.

Just commenting.....
 

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I didn't know that the lawyers would get permits for you. You need a building plan first, which you get by thinking of one yourself (eg, I want a deck, a roof, etc) then talking to the contractor. They would know what to do. If diy, you can apply once the house is yours. When buying a house, best if the house already has everything you need and you need to do minimum to modernize or changing things the way you and your family like. If you don't do renovations yourself, diy-ing a cheap house could be once a lifetime commitment and it will not be cheap.



Soffit vents and passive venting became popular only about 20 years ago (maybe bit more but it's become generic knowledge without people understanding it) because of ice dam problems where it snows a lot. Most houses in nj are lot older. Research the passive venting and don't make it your requirement for buying a house. Powered attic fan is actually more useful which many more houses have. Avoiding houses with potential for ice damming is good. Houses without soffits (simple cape, I think) are more vulnerable. You can fix them but if possible, try not to spend your money on lemons.
 

· Hammered Thumb
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I didn't know that the lawyers would get permits for you. You need a building plan first, which you get by thinking of one yourself (eg, I want a deck, a roof, etc) then talking to the contractor. They would know what to do. If diy, you can apply once the house is yours.
OP is talking about old work done by previous owners where the permits were applied for and closed out.

Lawyers are expensive. When you have a house in escrow, just go the building dept yourself and have them look it up. Some may require FOIA, some may just need to see the paperwork, some may only have the application and no drawings, just depends on how old the work is and how sophisticated the AHJ is.
 

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First verify the responsible authority, if you're not in a city it could be the township, but most likely the county. Then start by contacting the building department to ask where the records can be had. It could be them, the auditor or even recorders office. There are many variables by region, I know PA. does a lot by township, here in Ohio it's city, county.
 
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