Common Problems for Houses without a Building Permit

Building permits for homes without building permits are written permits issued by a city or county and are required for most construction or remodeling projects to ensure the safety of the work and compliance with existing building, construction and zoning regulations. Failure to obtain the proper permits for construction or upgrading projects on a property can lead to numerous problems: leakage risks, electrical faults, fires and even non-compliant items. Assessing these risks is an important step to understand why permits are important and what can happen without them.

Without proper authorization, there are many problems that the property can face due to breakdowns and problems caused by poor quality work or lack of understanding about certain items. It is possible to change the electricity grid only to encounter a power outage in the home. The same situations can cause a fire in a house. It is then a matter of insurance for the carrier to accept the conditions for work completed without authorization. If a building inspector from the city visits, the homeowner may face additional penalties such as fines. It is important to consult a lawyer before undertaking any major renovation.

If bathroom equipment needs to be replaced, the homeowner may decide to carry it out alone or with a cheap contractor. If the contractor is unwilling to obtain a permit for the work, the owner may then face problems caused by the contractor cutting corners or lack of knowledge on how to replace or repair certain items. Other problems, such as failing to check smoke detectors and ventilation, can cause the home to fill with excessive amounts of smoke and suffocate the homeowner. Many contractors will perform the work without proper authorization when the owner has not contracted the work through a larger or more experienced agency.

Electrical Faults
If the property owner does not obtain permission during the project or through a contractor, they are likely to experience electrical faults. This happens through exposed wires and studs, wires not properly bundled together or missing connections. If the previous landlord has not properly adjusted or repaired the wiring, the new landlord is responsible for this. The contractor hired for this purpose will need to obtain a permit to avoid liability to the owner, as is possible in most states. However, without authorization, the landlord can pay for the problem through fines or additional costs in maintenance and replacement.

Window Problems
Some windows may not comply with the city’s rules. If the contractor does not have a license and does not know what the city requires, his windows may not comply with the law. This can lead to very large windows being installed in walls that local authorities want to be smaller for an exit when a fire or similar problem occurs. With this in mind, most plans require the contractor or the person installing the windows requires the person to know the city code and obtain a permit to ensure that the exit windows provide a valid exit. Others must have access to a specific type of stone or staircase.

Unstable Walls
In construction, renovation or adding a building to a property, it is possible that the contractor or worker does not understand how to create a solid wall. Drywall in position can also crack. Walls can collapse without the necessary support beams and other materials. This can happen if the contractor or worker does not build according to the coding. Any lack of supervision or assessment of the area can cause a problem. Complications can cause injury or major property damage.

City Fines and Demolition
The provincial inspector is the most important problem for not getting a license. No matter who contacts him or her, the inspector can shut down the entire operation. This can lead to large fines for construction, building or renovation without proper authorization. Other situations can lead to the demolition of the project. This happens if the construction is in violation of city zoning regulations. Generally, the inspector will stop all work until the owner obtains the proper permit from a plan approved by city officials. If the work is not up to code, the inspector may ask the person to tear it up and start over.

Legal Help with Common Problems
Without permission, a person can face serious consequences. A lawyer can stop the problem until the owner gets the necessary permission. However, if the owner has followed the right steps, the legal expert may need to explain this to the local authorities.

What should you do if you are in the process of buying a house without a building permit and you find out that there is unauthorized work going on?
The good news is that you discovered it before you closed the deal. Depending on how hot your real estate market is, this could give you significant leverage. If your home inspection reveals an unpermitted job, the simplest action to take is to walk away from the deal. If you really love the house, the price is right and the work is minor, then you have two options: 1) ask the seller to come back and get the proper permits before closing; 2) Accept the house as it is, but negotiate a lower price. Remember that you will bear the aggravating and possible penalties for unauthorized work and any permit fees. You will also have to disclose this when you go to sell the house one day, which will reduce the sale price.

What if I’m selling my house without a building permit and unauthorized renovations?
When you list your home, your agent will ask you to fill out a disclosure form. Answer the questions honestly. If you don’t, you risk sabotaging a potential deal and opening yourself up to lawsuits later on. If you have made unauthorized renovations, indicate this on the form. Indicate on the form if you know of any such work done by previous owners. If you honestly do not know whether work in the past was done with permission, answer “I don’t know”. Confirm with your real estate agent or attorney, but in most cases, there is no need to go around for past permit violations that you did not know about beforehand. The buyer’s home inspector or bank appraiser will likely find them and notify the buyer. Unauthorized Remodeling is a very important and serious matter, contrary to popular belief.

What if my general contractor/repairman/plumber/electrician says I don’t need a remodeling permit for a house without a building permit?
Most reputable contractors and remodeling companies will be open and honest with you about the permits required by law. After all, it’s in their best interest to follow the rules so they don’t get fined, shut down or lose their license. However, there are less reputable companies that will offer to remodel without a permit. As a landlord, it is in your best interest to verify whether the remodeling work requires a permit. If you find out that you need a permit and the company you are renting from is willing to proceed without one, you may need to ask yourself where else they are willing to cut corners. An offer to carry out unauthorized work where a permit is required is a big red flag. I would recommend finding a more reputable contractor.