Angie's List: Home Repair Permits

By Lauren Maloney

Published 07/26 2014 12:09AM

Updated 07/28 2014 09:02AM

Do you need a permit to renovate your bathroom? What about to build a deck? 

It can be confusing for homeowners to figure out, but shouldn’t be ignored.

“We’re removing an inside wall to make a more open space and actually moving the kitchen to the opposite of the room, making it an open kitchen with an island,” Homeowner Mark Stauffer said.

Mark Stauffer has lived in this home for 35 years and he decided it’s time to make some updates.

“There is electrical, plumbing, and structural work being done and those all require permits,” he said.

Whether your home improvement project requires a permit varies depending on where you live, but most laws require that you not build, move, significantly alter or add to a building without a permit.

“It actually provides you important protection. For example, in some scenarios a contractor must be licensed in order to get the permit so it adds an extra layer of protection for you,” Founder Angie Hicks said.

Remodeler Thomas Pearson says a fair amount of planning must be done before pulling a permit.

“It’s very important that if a room addition is being built that the setbacks are correct. There’s a certain amount you are supposed to have and planning is the most important part of the job. If the planning is done very well in the beginning then the rest of the job will run well,” Thomas Pearson said.

A permit for a small project may range in the $100 range or less, while a bigger project like a home addition can cost more than $900.

If you skip the permit process in order to save a few bucks Angie’s List warns you could end up paying more in the long run.

“If you skip pulling a permit you might end up paying fines, it could stop the work being done, they may make you re-do it. In some scenarios when it comes down to electrical work and the electrical work causes a fire your homeowner’s insurance may not cover it,” Hicks said.

Angie’s List says if a contractor asks you to pull your own permits that could be a red flag the contractor isn’t insured or doesn’t have the required license to do the work.

So where do you go to learn if your project requires a permit?

No matter whether you are hiring a contractor or doing the work yourself, check with your local building department.

Do your own research and question any contractor who remodels without pulling a permit.

The pitfalls of not pulling a permit:

·         Fines & penalties: In the off chance that code enforcement authorities flag these violations, homeowners can face fines and penalties that far exceed the cost of permits not pulled, and the city may require contractors or DIYers to tear out work, such as drywall, and do it over.

·         Will you be covered? Not all code violations come back to bite the homeowner in the form of shoddy work that needs repair or city fines. But experts say if, for example, a homeowner does electrical work without proper permitting and problems down the road spark a fire, a homeowner’s policy may not pay for damages.

Angie’s List Tips: Permits

·         What projects require a permit? Although the requirement for a permit varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, most laws require that you not build, move, significantly alter or add to a building without receiving a permit issued by local code enforcement officials. If you’re doing the work yourself or not sure whether contract work has been inspected, experts advise calling your municipality’s code enforcement authority to schedule a follow-up inspection.

·        Where to look: Not sure if that job you’re DIYing requires a permit, or want to double-check for a contracted job? To check local permitting requirements, contact your city’s code enforcement department or your county if you live in a rural area. You can also typically check online, such as at your city’s code enforcement Web page, for a list of project types that require a permit in your area.

·         How much is a permit? For a small project, such as installing a new toilet, a plumbing permit may run in the $100 range or less, while for an addition, such as adding a bedroom onto a home, a building permit may run more than $1,000. Some municipalities offer fee calculators online. Ask the contractor if that cost is included in the contract?

·         Red flags: In many cases, a remodeling contractor must first be properly licensed with a municipality before they can obtain a building permit, which adds an extra layer of consumer protection to your next home remodeling project. If they ask you to pull your own permits, that could be a red flag the contractor isn’t insured or doesn’t have the required license to do the work. Don’t take a contractors word on it. Do your own research. Question any contractor who remodels without pulling a permit.

·         Can I get a copy? Request copies of all permits issued for your project. A contractor that doesn’t possess the proper licenses, bonds, and permits might be unqualified to work on your home.

·         Buying a new home: If you’re buying or building a home, insist on a thorough inspection before finalizing the purchase or moving in, and secure paperwork on previous renovations. The seller must provide full disclosure when selling a home. Ask what remodeling has been done and the permits that were pulled.

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