Skipping the permit for renovations: Why it's a problem

Why should you have to get a permit to do renovations on your own home?

That's the reaction a lot of homeowners have when they find out they need a permit to remodel some part of their residence. Many homeowners will skip the permit, if they can for a number of reasons:

  • Permits are expensive. Anything you can do to eliminate a few costs when you're remodeling starts to look like an attractive option.

  • City codes can be annoying (and costly) to meet. Getting a permit can open a Pandora's Box of problems.

  • Permits can be difficult to obtain. You have to apply for one and wait for an approval. That may or may not require an inspection that will slow up your whole project.

  • The city will know you are making improvements. That could add to your house taxes in the future. Keeping renovations out of sight is one way to avoid letting the city know they need to reassess your property's value.

Given all those reasons, is there really any problem with skipping the permit?

Yes, there is. Here are some of the serious problems you can run into when you don't have a permit for your renovations:

  • Your homeowner's insurance might not cover defects in the remodel that cause a problem. For example, if a wire in your new kitchen causes a fire, you may have trouble getting the insurance to compensate you.

  • The work might not be up to code. Those codes exist for a reason. They're designed to make sure that homes are built with safety standards in mind.

  • You could have to rip everything out. Imagine, for example, that you build a nice spare bath onto your house. The city finds out and determines that you're in violation of some ordinance. Your work -- and the money you spent -- just went to waste.

  • You may have trouble selling the property later. Buyers typically don't want to clean up a previous owner's mistakes -- especially when there's potentially a lot of expense involved.

Yes, permits can be a hassle -- but they are nothing compared to the problems you can encounter if you don't get one. If you do run into issues and are facing fines or litigation, it's wise to seek experienced legal guidance.