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Who needs a permit for a renovation?

September 3, 2015

Every now and then, I will visit a prospective renovation customer and they will ask if a building permit is necessary. I find it a bit curious, considering the amount of construction horror stories on TV, that people would still ask. Even more interesting is that many of these homes are well over a million dollars and the 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 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 could cost more. Just be sure to wear a helmet and carry around a fire extinguisher when in your newly renovated home.

The Risks of a renovation without a building permit are really what homeowners are blind too. Here are just a few

1. Home becomes uninsurable or now has much higher premiums
Without a permit renovations cannot be verified if done to code. Insurance companies could consider it a greater risk for fire, flood or collapse.

2. Home becomes unsalable
Renovations, especially major ones, done without 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)

3 Safety
Building codes are created for the benefit and safety to home owners. 99% of people (and frankly some  renovation contractors) have no idea what current buildings code are and how to confirm they were executed corretly. Building and trade inspectors are your third party to insure work is done to code giving you and your family the piece 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 just pull a permit. A contractor that tries to sway an owner from using a permit is very likely unaware of what current code is because if he does know then what would be his fear or concerns by pulling a permit? And as well intentioned a trade might be to do things per building code, he is human and will make mistakes. The truth of the matter, from time to time, we are told, by the building inspector, to make corrections on our renovation jobs and we are about as savy to building code as they come.

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Kevin Parenteau

Kevin Parenteau

Co-Owner and Team Builder of reVISON Custom Home Renovations with Many Years in the Construction industry. Active in the Entrepreneurs' Organization has served as the Vancouver Chapter President and Lead Forum Director for the Global Forum Committee. Dog Lover and Yoga Teacher. Expert BBQ chef ;)
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