Why homeowners skip the permits they need to remodel

You've found a lovely home, and you're seriously considering purchasing it. There's just one problem: You can tell that the home has been remodeled and you suspect (or know) that the owner never got the required permits.

Missing permits can be a big problem. Around 80% of homeowners admit that they've done remodels without applying for a permit. In many cases, they simply may not realize that they need to have one. In other cases, permits get skipped because:

  • They're an extra step. A lot of people just feel intimidated about applying for a permit. It can feel like an unnecessary delay and a bit intrusive to have to get one.

  • They can be expensive. Every remodel or construction project costs more than people expect -- and it's natural to cut unnecessary costs. When a project isn't visible from the street, it can be tempting to skip the permit to avoid the expense.

  • They don't want to follow the requirements. Maybe your brother's been working as an unlicensed electrician for 40 years and you trust his ability -- but that won't meet the city's requirements if your remodel requires electrical work. A permit necessitates hiring a licensed professional for the work -- and that's an additional cost.

  • They think they can get away with it. Some homeowners simply take the approach that "it's far easier to beg forgiveness" for a missing permit than to adhere to all the requirements. They're usually gambling that they just won't get caught.

The problems with missing permits can include work that isn't up to code, fines, problems receiving a fair appraisal and difficulties with your home insurance. In some cases, the city may even require you to tear out the offending work and start over.

If you have permit problems and it's interfering with the purchase or sale of a piece of property, find out how an experienced attorney can help you.