Why should you consider pulling a permit for work done on your home?

The #1 reason you should get a permit if you’re having work done on your home that requires it is the obvious one: it’s required by law, and you can have problems with the City if they discover you don’t have a permit, either as the work is being done, or after the fact.  That said, it’s definitely the case that many homes in our area have work that was done without permits.  Homeowners choose to skip permits for a variety of reasons, including the cost of a permit, the additional property taxes that might be triggered, the possibility that the work might not be allowed by the city for zoning or code reasons, etc..

Here are the top three reasons to consider getting a permit, though, beyond just that you’re supposed to do it:

(1) It’s good to have an external check on the work being done.  Note that having a permit and the related inspections is not a guarantee that everything is done correctly, but at least someone with some knowledge is looking things over.

(2) If you’re adding square footage, and/or bedrooms and baths, the new space won’t have as much value in a sale if it is not permitted.  An appraiser looking at a property doesn’t give full value to space if it’s not included in the public record and you can’t show that it was added with permits.  Likewise, buyers may not value the space as highly because of potential issues with the appraisal, and because they may be uncertain about the quality of the work done.

(3) A permit sets the clock for the building code when the work is done.  Suppose you add a bathroom without a permit, and the city discovers this at some later date.  Possible outcomes could be that they require that the bathroom be removed, or that the work be inspected and brought up to current code and requirements.  Even if the work was done really well, and complied with all building codes and zoning requirements at the time it was completed, those codes and requirements may have changed, and past work without a permit is not “grandfathered in” (i.e. allowed to stay because it conformed with past regulations).  And, even if the codes or zoning have not changed, you still might be required to open up walls and undo things so that the underlying work can be inspected.

To permit or not to permit?  I leave you to decide.  One last thought though.  If you are having work done with a permit, be sure to follow up with your contractor, and get a copy of the final inspection sign-off after the work is done.  When I look at the online permit record for a particular property, I often see records for permits that were pulled, but never finaled.  Sometimes the work was not completed, but many other times, the final city inspection was never done, or the city’s database doesn’t show that final inspection.  By getting a copy of the final sign-off from your contractor, you know that the final inspection was done and passed, and you can prove it if something gets lost in the city records.