Contrary to what you may have heard, the “p” in the word permit does not stand for “pain”. While it may seem like one more thing on a seemingly endless laundry list of tasks when it comes to a home construction project, it’s vital that a permit be secured when required by your local jurisdiction. Failure to do so can have some ugly consequences which can vary greatly, depending on local ordinances. Here are just a few:
Cease & Desist Order: If you’re caught red-handed in the middle of a project that requires a permit and you failed to secure one, you may be issued with a cease & desist order. This means that all work must be stopped until a permit is acquired and the work already completed is inspected. If the project is found to not comply with building codes, you will be forced to spend extra money and time to bring it up to code. Quite likely, you’ll be forced to undergo re-inspections and pay a stiff fine.
Forced Removal: In some cases, a homeowner who completes a project without the proper permits can be forced to remove it at their own expense, pay fines and be required to redo the work with a permit. This can include projects as substantial as a deck or addition.
Rewinding Portions of the Project: Let’s say you have electrical work completed but close off the wall before an inspector is able to check out the work. Some municipalities may force you to open the walls up, at your expense, so that the inspection may occur.
Obstacles Selling Your Home: Let’s say that you add onto your home without getting a permit. When it comes time to sell your home, an appraiser may not have to add in the new square footage in their appraisal, which means the home very likely will appraise for less than others of the same size. This means a lowered asking price and can cause trouble for those trying to secure financing to buy the property.
Insurance Issues: If a permit is not pulled, your insurance company may not legally have to pay for any damage that occurs. (And yes, this could include a house fire that occurs as a result of your “creative” electrical wiring.)
The Bottom Line: Local municipalities vary in the type of project and pricing for permits. Before commencing a home improvement project, do your homework and find out if a permit is needed and how the inspection process works. Because at the end of the day, regardless of who you hire to complete the work, the ultimate responsibility of ensuring the correct permits are pulled falls on the homeowner (though a reputable contractor should assist you in completing the process). Claiming ignorance will not get you out of any of the above situations.