Who needs a building permit for a renovation?
Every now and then, I will visit a prospective customer and they will ask if a building permit is necessary. I find it a curious question considering the amount of construction horror stories on TV. Even more interesting is that many of these homes are well over a million dollars and homeowners are willing to shortcut and risk their home for a renovation.
One big myth is that the renovation project will cost more. Ok yes, it does, but Permits are a nominal cost and usually amounts to 0.5 to 1% of the renovation contract. But what about the work? In my experience, if your trades are ticketed journeyman the cost is about the same. If your preference is to a couple of guys working out of the back of a van that can “do it all” then yes it will cost more. Just be sure to wear a helmet and carry around a fire extinguisher in your newly renovated home.
The Risks of a renovation without a building permit
1. Home becomes uninsurable or now has much higher premiums
Without a permit, renovations cannot be verified if done to building code. Insurance companies could consider it a greater risk for fire, flood or collapse.
2. Home becomes unsalable
Renovations, especially major ones, done without a permit is a red flag to buyers. Verifying trade work done to code can be costly. Repairs or adjustments to suit code or zoning can be just as much as the original renovation. Don’t be surprised if the buyer asks for a major discount (or just walks away)
Building codes are created for the benefit and safety of homeowners. 99% of people (and frankly some renovation contractors) have no knowledge of the current buildings code. Building and trade inspectors are your third party to ensure work is done to code giving you and your family the peace of mind that your home is safe.
To permit or not to permit is further complicated by contractors who say, “we will do it to code, just won’t pull a permit.” My response is to pull a permit. A contractor that tries to sway an owner from using a permit is very likely unaware of the current code. If he does know, then why the fear or concerns of pulling a permit? As well-intentioned as a contractor might be, he or she is human and will make mistakes. Truthfully, at times we make mistakes, and thankfully we have an inspector that will put a second set of eyes on the work.Back to the Blog