Buyer and Sellers Beware-Permits are Important

Let’s start off with the law as it stands with regard to permits:

  • 1 Required. Any owner, or contractor who desires to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish, or change the occupancy of a building or structure, or to erect, install, enlarge, alter, repair, remove, convert or replace any electrical, gas, mechanical or plumbing system, the installation of which is regulated by the technical codes, or to cause any such work to be done, shall first make application to the Building Official and obtain the required permit for the work.

It’s very straightforward. You need permits for virtually all major work, such as changes made to roofing, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, structural changes such as room and bathroom additions, removing a wall, or even adding a deck or porch. There are, however, exceptions to this rule providing for repairs to defects that do not alter the systems or equipment, or render it unsafe. Then there are exceptions to the exceptions.

For instance, if you have an otherwise sound roof, but some flashing is loose around your chimney, that’s a repair. You don’t need a permit for that. Even some emergency work, such as repairing hail or tornado damage can be started without a permit, though one should be filed immediately the next business day. However, if you have an older roof in deteriorating condition that is damaged and not repairable, that is a job for which you do need a permit.

For those who have had unpermitted work done to their roof and are now thinking of selling, it’s time to come clean. You may think that you have gotten away with a major home improvement or even a whole new roof from the rafters out. But this is where you’re going to be tripped up – even if the work is entirely done to code.

If your buyer’s agent, the housing inspector, or the title company looks at your four-bedroom three-bath house, with a new tile roof and compares it to the three-bedroom two-bath house with a three-tab shingle roof that is on the record, your buyer may choose to call the whole thing off instead of taking on the extra expense of squaring it with the County. What is going to be even worse, when you buyer’s insurance agency looks at the particulars of the house and sees that there is no permit for that new roof, they are not going to “see” it. There is no permit, therefore no legal proof that the roof exists. They will go with the age of the last permitted roof and you can kiss your buyer goodbye since they may not be able to insure the home.

Even if you took out a homeowner-builder permit, you were still required to use licensed contractors to do the work. If the work is not to code or if the work has defects, all liability lands on the homeowner instead of the contractor should a defect in the work cause damage or injury. Further, if the additions are not to code or are found to be unsafe, you are responsible for demolition and disposal as well as putting on a roof that is to code. In our view, it’s best to do it once, do it right, do it legally, and pay for it just once than to cheat and pay twice. You can even get tax breaks, insurance credits, and other incentives to replace your roof with a legitimate, permitted roof. Ask us about what you can do to get a better deal!