Does Your Home Have All the Necessary Building Permits?

By: Rob Muller

If you are planning a spring home sale, do not be tempted to throw up a quick deck or conservatory without a permit. Some areas are stricter than others on the amount of planning permission and input that is required by the local building department.

If you go to visit your City Hall, or wherever the Planning Office is housed locally, at least you will have their input from the start. 'Build first and ask later' can cost more money than just a fine.

You may think that you do not need a building permit for small changes in and around your home, but you could be wrong. Different areas have different requirements, but here are a few changes that require a building permit, that will probably surprise you: adding a carport, deck or porch; installing new plumbing, a ramp or finishing rooms in the basement; adding a fireplace.

Often an unauthorized structure can be ordered to be demolished, simply because the building inspector has not been able to view each stage progressively. It may well be built appropriately, but this will not be taken into account when it cannot be proven.

Another problem which may come back at you could happen if you bought your home without having a survey or building inspection. Sometimes when it is not required, a prospective buyer will opt to skip the survey to save a few hundred dollars.

If this was the way you bought the home, any work that the previous owner completed without a work permit, will still be your responsibility when you sell the home.

Building codes are all written out in black and white, so you can ask for copies and they are easy to understand. Almost all building codes are related to the construction and occupancy of a building. They are in place to protect public health and safety.

If you think you need to build a deck or structure that may not fit the standard specifications of your neighborhood, you can apply for a variance. Variances can be granted against building code, municipal code and zoning rules.

It is possible to apply for variance against works that were illegally carried out by previous owners. It may not be granted, but permission is usually weighed up against four factors.

The four factors state that the variance: must not alter the essential character of the neighborhood, is needed for reasonable use, or, without it there may be unnecessary hardship, and finally, you must prove that it is the least intrusive solution.

Such things as avoiding the truth about building permits and on disclosure forms can become a point of litigation. If the sale of the house has already closed, then the whole balance of the sale price (plus compensation) could be in jeopardy.

If an appraiser or a building inspector finds major corrective work that needs to be done and the home is still in escrow, then you could allow the buyer to choose the contractor that they would wish to use to reconstruct or correct the work. Once the works have been carried out, then the escrow officers can pay the contractor directly.

Also, if you let the buyer supervise the work, it will mean that you are not liable for any of it. However, your home will be turned into a construction site and the whole thing will delay a sale you may have negotiated.

For these reasons it is safer if you are buying a home to have a building inspection carried out (unless it is brand new). It protects you both when buying the home for yourself and it protects you from the previous owner's possible shortcuts when selling it.

Real Estate
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Real Estate
 



Share this article :
Click to see more related articles