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Reckless Optimist
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I just want to hear some general thoughts, for and against. How do you feel about people doing work on their own houses and land without getting permits for it?

For example, I saw a blog post that said if you do your own electrical work without a permit and your house burns down from an electrical fire, insurance won't cover it. Is that true?

I know there was work done on my house without a permit. (For example, the furnace was replaced and relocated.) I asked my county how to remedy the situation, and the guy said there is no remedy except to undo the work, get the permit, and then re-do it, which isn't possible. So what am I supposed to do in that situation?

How bad is it not to get a permit? I worry about the cost and the delay--and an inordinate amount of effort. For example, the building permit checklist for my county lists things like "stamped copy of engineered truss drawings" and "zoning certification", neither of which I think would apply to the work I want to do and neither of which I have any idea how to obtain. The whole process just seems Herculean to me, and it keeps me from even trying. It's depressing.

What are your thoughts? Thanks.
 

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Naildriver
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Anything that is not applicable to the work you are doing is checked off as N/A by the inspection department. You apply for what you are doing. Generally if you change the footprint of the house, you will need a permit, as well as electrical, plumbing and possibly HVAC.

Permits can save your bacon, so it is suggested that you jump through the hoops and do it. And, yes, work that is not permitted and causes a problem most likely won't be covered by insurance. Remember it is their job to NOT pay claims if they can help it.
 

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Also depends on city/county/state. Where I am only foundational and primary structure changes require a permit (on property electric, plumbing, not even natural gas lines and stuff needs a permit.) But we need a permit to put in deck foundations/piers. Permitting is weird.

I prefer to get any permit I can, usually it's $100/h (min $50) to get the city to come check off work (permit required or not) so we just pay the bill - figure it helps the city/state anyway lol
 

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I'm in nj. Requiring permits is fairly strict and almost everything needs a permit. One town, I needed a permit if I removed/added more than a yard of dirt from the land. But this is if. More often, works get done under the table and there's no paper trace. Town doesn't know and insurance company doesn't know, so life goes on without the permit.



So don't dig up a can of worms for yourself.:smile: Don't tell the insurance company. It is not going to protect you. If you have some info about your house, have suspicions, get carpenters and electricians to look at your house first. Ask for detailed list and come back to confirm. Good photos can replace thousand words. Tell the pros why you called them and you mean to double check them. If any objects, politely show them the door or hang up. You have the time, so this depends on your personality also.:smile:



My mom's house had an outlet that was spliced with a light appliance cord.:smile: I found it after about a decade of them living there. But a pro looking now, can find problems now.
 

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retired painter
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My mom's house had an outlet that was spliced with a light appliance cord

A dozen or so yrs ago a friend of mine bought a house that had a lot of inept diy work done. There were a couple of rooms that were powered by an extension cord jumper wires going thru a holes drilled in the wall to power the next room. Those where the first things he fixed after moving in!


Locally the permit process is getting more stringent. 30yrs ago the only permits needed in our county was septic and electrical. I tore down an old house several yrs ago and found out after the fact that I was supposed to have gotten a permit first. Nothing was ever said to me about it though. Homeowners are allowed to do their own work but licensing is often needed if the work is done on a customer's house.
 

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Red Seal Electrician
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Easy answer is to make darn sure your un-permitted work is good enough that it doesn't burn the house down.

How much un-permitted work is in your house now? How do you know? Have you taken your house apart to check?
 

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Around here, the town code enforcement office is usually pretty helpful and will tell you when you do and don't need a permit.

You do have to learn the process. There may be special dates/times when they're available for questions. Normally they work with contractors and property managers who all know the routine, so the homeowner dropping in with a question may feel a bit out of place.
 

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Many years ago I removed a small porch cover and replaced with one that is much larger, no permit. Took lots of pictures. A few years later did an add on to the other side of the home. When we we went in for permit the county discovered the porch, the fine was cheaper than the permit, go figure.
 

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On my own house I get a permit for outside stuff if it will be noticeable as a change after it is done. The code cops use aerial photos to see changes.
Indoors, no permit unless it is part of an outdoor modification.
Insurance pays if no permit. They might cancel you later, but they will pay in my area.
 

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In some states, permits are a tool to raise property taxes.
That being said, permits and inspections are there to ensure that what is being built, meets code. Code is there so you don't build in an unsafe manner or repeat costly mistakes done by others in the past.
In my city they inspect and sign off your foundation, framing, plumbing, electrical for obvious reasons...but don't inspect flooring for example.
In the long run, getting permits when required is the way to go.
 

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Hammered Thumb
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For example, the building permit checklist for my county lists things like "stamped copy of engineered truss drawings" and "zoning certification", neither of which I think would apply to the work I want to do and neither of which I have any idea how to obtain. The whole process just seems Herculean to me, and it keeps me from even trying. It's depressing.
I sounds hypocritical, and it is, but I am all for DIY non-permitted work by me, since I can do it professionally and do it to code. I am not for unpermitted work by homeowner hacks. :biggrin2:

Most things required for permit are for your's and other's safety, like stamped truss drawings and anything electrical. They also keep a level playing field amongst all buildings with a standard of design and construction, which keeps your value up and insurance rate down (well, that last one is debatable!). Things like "zoning certification" is just a minor cog in the process where the planning dept checks that you can actually have that patio be all the way to the property line, or say an addition's SF or height is within limits set forth for that area. Some of the cogs listed for permits in general may not apply to your specific situation.

In terms of "retroactive" permits, if its something that doesn't have partial inspections along the way, you technically don't have to remove something and put it back, just looking at the final thing doesn't matter what was there before.

Sometimes permitting is depressing, like when they are no help or when inspectors feed off of their power trip. Mostly you'll find at least someone in the system who is helpful.
 

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Just be careful you aren't ratting yourself out.

For example, applying for permits to fix up a garage that's illegally built too close to a property line.
Exactly, there is no one answer fits all, each project is different than others.
Also, inspectors are quick to notice deficiencies and code violations that have nothing to do with the current project.
There are pot holes everywhere to get you in trouble.
 

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I would like
No home or property could sold without a permit.

All codes at the time of build must be met before selling the house.

All permits for changing/adding on any part of the build/property must be shown with a plot plan and verified.

If not the house cannot be sold and would have to be demolished before the land could be sold.
 

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Wow I'm glad they don't do that here. My entire house was built before Anchorage annexed my city, there was no code out here when it was built so I'd have to tear the whole thing down lol
 

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Wow I'm glad they don't do that here. My entire house was built before Anchorage annexed my city, there was no code out here when it was built so I'd have to tear the whole thing down lol
Housing prior to code enforcement would be exempt.
Only the building/adding on to property after the code enforcement came into effect would be held accountable.
 
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