It’s important to know the risks of remodeling without a permit. Most cities require that homeowners obtain a building permit before making modifications to their residence. Modifications requiring a permit vary by city.
In order for the homeowners to receive a permit, they, or their designers, are required by the city to file plans and pay a fee. In addition, the improvements are given a value. If they increase the value of the property, this may result in an increase in property taxes. Inspections are often required, which will mean having to schedule and then wait for inspectors to come and approve the work to be done. This process can be time consuming and inconvenient in the short run. It is for this reason that some homeowners skip the permit process.
If a permit is needed and the homeowners fail to get one, the city may discover this at some time in the future. Getting a permit retroactively can frequently be significantly more expensive and can create more problems than if a permit was obtained before work commenced. If work is not done in accordance with city building codes, or if the inspector is unable to determine if the work has been done according to code, the homeowners could be required to open up walls or tear up floors, so that an inspection may take place. In addition, by law, modifications made to a property without a permit, where a permit was required, must be disclosed to any prospective purchaser. This may result in the homeowners having to discount their sale price or perform costly or time-consuming repairs before title can be transferred.
For prospective buyers, it is wise to avoid future hassles and extra outlays of money by researching whether or not all work on the home they wish to purchase has been done according to code and with the proper permits. Copies of permits may be obtained by going directly to the Building & Safety Office in the municipality in which the property is located, or by hiring a “permit puller” who will research the permits for the prospective buyers.