In our past blog post – Permits & Remodeling: What You Need to Know – we explained what permits are, what is involved when applying for a permit, and when it is necessary to obtain one. As a design-build firm, obtaining the required permits from the city prior to remodeling a home is part of our standard procedure. However, there are many instances in which remodeling companies, general contractors, or the homeowners themselves decide to pursue a project without getting the necessary permits. This isn’t surprising, as the hassle of getting a permit can seem tedious and time-consuming, especially if you are not familiar with the process. The permit might be expensive, require additional work to be done, and can cause delays in construction. Many homeowners might also think it’s not a big deal not to have a permit and aren’t concerned with getting caught.
Is it worth it to risk not getting a permit for your home remodeling project? Here are 6 risks of remodeling without a permit:
1. Non-permitted work might be done incorrectly
We recently had a client come to us with concerns about a project completed by another contractor. The contractor told the homeowner the job was done correctly and that a permit was obtained from the city. Come to find out, neither of those statements were true. Because there was no permit filed, there was no final inspection and the faulty construction was left undetected. We ended up having to demo the work that was done and completely redo the project correctly. The client was extremely grateful that we were able to help, but they ended up paying double for the work since it had to be reconstructed. Unfortunately, not all contractors will have as much integrity as you’d expect. This is why it’s important to thoroughly interview your contractor and ensure they are knowledgeable about the permitting process before you offer them the job.
2. Homeowner’s insurance may not cover damage resulting from a non-permitted remodel.
Permits are in place as a way for the city to regulate building codes and ensure that construction is safe for residents. If a remodel was done incorrectly and causes an accident later on, such as a fire or flooding, the damage might not be covered by a homeowner’s insurance policy if the improvement was done without a permit. As you can imagine, this could become a big financial nightmare if you invested a significant amount in your remodel and then end up having to pay thousands more to have it repaired due to hazardous construction.
3. The city might require you to tear down your project
City code often requires that framing be inspected by the city prior to hanging drywall. If this is not done, a city inspector might require the walls to be torn out. This would include anything attached to the walls, such as tile, cabinetry, counter tops, etc. This is also important to remember if your project is an exterior job, such as adding on a patio cover or detached garage. If it’s something your neighbors can see, it’s possible they could report it. If an inspector then comes out to find that the work was done incorrectly and no permit was obtained, they may require demolition of your newly constructed project.
4. The city might assess penalties.
If you escape having to tear down your new construction, you still might be responsible for paying penalties for not obtaining a required permit. This could cost you triple or even quadruple the amount of the original permit fee. Even if the permit seems expensive, trust us, paying for it up front will save you a lot of money in the long run!
5. A home appraiser might not include a non-permitted addition in the total value
If you’re planning on selling your home and the appraiser does not include the added square footage in the appraisal because it was not permitted, the home will appraise for much less. This is bad news, as you will not be able to sell your home at the amount you’d like to. For example, if a 10×10 room is not permitted, that’s 100 square feet. At $200 a square foot, you could potentially lose a $20,000 value!
6. Obtaining a permit after the construction is complete is sometimes possible, but expensive.
In some cases, homeowners can obtain an “as built” permit from the city if the project was completed without a permit. This might be the case if the home’s previous owner did the construction without a permit and you then purchased the home with intent to sell. The process usually involves hiring an architect to draw the plans, which the city must review and approve. This can cost thousands of dollars, depending on the project. It’s best practice to check that any additions or renovations were properly permitted before you purchase a home, especially if you intend to sell it later on.
While it is possible to complete a remodel without obtaining a permit, we definitely do not recommend it! As you can see, there are many risks involved that could create unfavorable circumstances and financial burdens. The best thing to do is to contact your city to discuss what permits will be necessary for your project and also make sure the contractor you hire is experienced and knowledgeable on the permitting process.
If you have more questions about permits or would like to discuss a potential home remodeling project, we’d be happy help! Please fill out a contact form on our website to specify the details of your project and we’ll be sure to get in touch with you!
The Medford Design-Build Team