The Risks of Ignoring the Permitting Process

Failing to procure the necessary approvals for your project can cost you dearly down the road. If your municipality official discovers that you are performing construction without a permit, the Building and Safety Division can and will require that you demolish all work and begin from scratch under the watchful eyes of the building inspectors.


Nearly all forms of construction on residential or commercial private property, whether new or remodeled, require building permits. If you plan to move walls, build an addition or remodel an entire room, you will definitely need a permit(s).


If your project constitutes a restoration, confirm that the city classifies your remodel as a “repair”. Otherwise, the construction costs associated with the project may be viewed as upgrades and added to your taxable assessed property value. 


Do not fool yourself into thinking that you can bypass the permitting process by staying under the radar. At the first sight of work crews or sounds of demolition, a neighbor may report your activities. If you live in a condominium building, a city official may spot your construction efforts while inspecting another unit. I hadn’t even begun to restore my home, for example, when I discovered a code notice on my door demanding that I halt all work. An officer had simply assumed that, since the owner of another condo that had been damaged in the building hadn’t procured a permit, I hadn’t either.


It is possible that you will come across a contractor who recommends skipping the permitting process altogether. If that is the case, do not listen to him! One of the contractors I interviewed for the restoration of my home insisted on bypassing the permitting process. Since he seemed quite knowledgeable and came referred by a highly regarded source, I came very close to hiring him. 


My now husband warned me that the risk of the work being discovered by the city was great, potentially exposing me to expensive fines and rework in the future. If just one of my neighbors contacted the city with a noise complaint, the building department could demand that all progress as of that date be demolished and redone with proper permitting. Fortunately, I listened to him. Later, I discovered that the contractor who insisted on circumventing the permitting process had left behind several unfinished projects, along with a number of unhappy customers.


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