This blog post is about building permits. I bet you’re rolling your eyes right now…come on admit it. You hate building permits. Trust me, this will be an interesting read and you’ll thank me later. Well, maybe not but you've already read almost 2 paragraphs so you may as well keep reading.
I’ve worked in this business for almost 17 years (my dad almost 40 years) and I’ve heard every rationalization from homeowners as to why they don’t want permits for their projects…
“Permits are just a cash grab.”
“I don’t want the government telling me what I can and can’t do with my property.”
“It’s better to beg forgiveness rather than ask permission.”
As a homeowner, if the above phrases have ever crossed your lips – well, to not put to fine a point on it – you’re wrong.
We (meaning my dad and me) always get permits when they are required and they’re required for most everything. Every once in a while we perform a project that doesn’t require permits but those occasions are few and far between.
Building permits are indeed a revenue stream for whatever municipality is issuing them, no doubt about it, but they are required by law whether we like it or not. I happen to think they're a good thing.
Yes, you managed to find a builder who actually believes obtaining a building permit is a good thing. Here’s why…
Building permits are a form of consumer protection. Permits require a code-enforcement inspector to sign off on work at various stages throughout the project and are an official record that a project has been checked to be safe and sound. A building permit is the homeowner’s protection and is your guarantee that the job is safe and has been done, at least, to minimum code. (Minimum code is a great topic for another blog post)
A contractor who won’t obtain the required permits might also lack appropriate licensing and that’s something you should definitely know before your project starts. Not all municipalities require licensing but you you can easily verify it yourself by calling the friendly folks at your local building department or by heading over to their website. Most building departments have a list of licensed contractors on their website somewhere.
So what happens if you don’t get permits for your project? Well, I’m glad I asked - I mean you asked...whatever.
If authorities discover work being done without permits they will place a lovely bright red (sometimes orange, occasionally neon green) "cease and desist work order" on your front door, you may be fined, the contractor may be fined, and when your contractor does go get your permits they likely will double all the fees too. It’s not pleasant. It’s not fun.
It’s not worth it!
Also, as if the shame of a "cease and desist work order" lovingly placed on your front door by your friendly building inspector and fines aren't enough you could end up paying twice for work. This is because the code-enforcement department may require you to remove drywall, tile, etc to inspect work that has been done inside wall cavities such as wiring, plumbing, insulation, etc.
Building inspectors are not bad people. In fact, the ones we work with are nice folks who are doing an important job – looking out for your safety and ensuring that you’re getting what you’re paying for.