Permit needed?

Old 07-11-04, 03:57 PM
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Permit needed?

I live in the Chicago area and plan on fininshing my basement in the near future. The finished project will be about 700 square feet and a bathroom will be added. I have no practical knowledge of the building codes that must be followed, but have learned a bit through talking with the 5 people that have given me estimates on the project. Two of them were the "handyman" types that do basements as a part time job and the others were, what appear to be, reputable companies.

The thing that worries me the most is that not one of them wants to get the permits required by the city. I usually get a response like "We can pull the permits, but it will cost you more." or, "Your taxes will go up if you do that."

Some of my specific worries include:

Firestops behind the walls - The contractors that I talked about them with said they weren't needed, but would put them in for an extra fee. I wouldn't have even known there was such a thing if one of the contractors hadn't mentioned them.

Pit/ejector pump - They want to use the pit that is now used for the floor drain and just upgrade the pump to the correct type for waste from the bathroom. I believe the code would require a larger and deeper pit.

Exhaust fan for bathroom - Some say it's not necessary since we won't be including a shower or bath. I think it's probably required and can't imagine a bathroom without one.

How many other things will they cut corners on that I will have no way of knowing. Any examples you could provide?

Can I trust anyone that gives me an estimate? It seems like none of them are 100% honest. Several were referred though a service that specializes in connecting contractors with consumers, while the others were recommended by friends.

Am I crazy for thinking that the permits should be obtained? Would I be in the minority if I spent the money and "forced" the contractor to obtain the permits?

If I don't get the permits and we get "caught", how much will it cost to get everything up to code? Quite a bit, I'm sure.

Can I get "caught" years down the line after the contractor is long gone? When I sell the house for example? When the home is inspected by a prospective buyer?

Are there any honest contractors out there that do basements in Chicago area?

I don't want any regrets when the project is done.

Any comments,suggestions or experiences along these lines will be greatly appreciated.
Old 07-11-04, 09:17 PM
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Like you, I wondered whether it was necessary to get a permit before or while finishing my basement, until I joined this forum. What I found was that, yes, I could do the work myself and my town may not find out until I sell the house, but when they do, you will pay a lot more in the long run.

To confirm, I asked my inspector what would happen if I went to sell without the inspection being done and he informed me that he would need to poke holes in the walls to make sure the wiring is correct, the installation is correct, the get the idea. Once he is done, I would have to "fis" all the hoes before the house would pass the inspection, and that is assuming everything is good once he is done poking holes. You can see how expensive this can get.

I got the permit while finishing my basement now, and it cost me only $60.

Good luck
Old 07-11-04, 10:04 PM
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Your concerns are thought of by many and many don't get a permit. If they get caught without it, they ususally don't care unless it costs them money to repair or replace something not done right. As time goes by, more investigative buyers are out there and they get help before purchasing. As logan00 said, doing it right means allot when you consider the investment in acquiring a home then maintaining it so tht your investment is gaiing equity for potential sale down the line. The issue is to not be like the odd man out but the right man in. Those who do it right always reap the positive benefits, like being able to sleep at night without worry with thoughts of "Boy am I going to get caught?"
I have heard the stories, gotten calls about what do I do now? Guess what, its a question that shouldn't be asked now! It's too late. All that time they think how they got away with something. As tehy say what goes around comes around. Do a bad thing and bad things will happen.

Here is an article I wrote,

Pulling a permit or not, is not the question that should be asked, the question should be why not pull a permit? You can say that you are doing it by the “book” or that you know what you are doing but the issues are more involved than that. Most common reason not to get a permit “My property taxes will increase”. Then I hear them say that “the improvements will increase my property value but I don’t want my taxes to go up!?” You can’t have everything or can you?

Homeowners Insurance becomes an issue. In the event of a loss, obviously your improvements that were done without a permit will not be covered. Once an adjuster sees that there was work that was done without a permit, he just may deny the entire claim. Not knowing what other work may have been done and never got inspected you could be facing a major problem. Investing in a $50 or $500 permit is a minor item when it relates to a home that is worth $200,000! Why risk it?

Selling the home down the line...there is a form that must be filled out by the seller..a “Disclosure Statement” which will cover anything and everything that is documented on the life cycle of the home including “your projects”. They might involve something minor or something that should have had a permit. Lenders may deny your buyer's loan because of no permits obtained due to the liability that could jeopardize the integrity of their “collateral”. Not disclosing the items is a violation of the law and you can be subject to civil or criminal actions that will just ruin your day. What you think you can get away with now will haunt you later, I guarantee it!

“Reduced sale price of home” could be a real issue. Most properties sold now may be subject to state-licensed Home Inspection Services. These services are excellent as they go into attics, crawl spaces, extremely thorough. All questionable areas are noted on their reports. These may be required within your state or within a specific county or municipality. These can be mandated by the Lender regardless of state/local requirements. In some cases, they can be requested by the Buyer. Lenders may not even approve a loan if permits were not obtained. You may have to take a $20,000 or $30,000 hit for an example on the sales price of the home! Can you afford this? More and more buyers are hiring an inspector due to those that fail to get permits when required. Failure to allow the inspection will not be in your best interest. These inspections will involve everything on the home to include all structural and mechanical systems. Everything must meet the “current local codes”.

What happens if I get caught without a permit? You might have to pay double fees for the permit plus possibly a code compliance inspection fee, plus .... You may indeed have to remove any improvements that were done without permits and trust me, they can do it!

When do you need a permit? Best thing is to call your local Building Official and ask. It's simple and not expensive if in fact you need one. Most major modifications, remodeling, additions need a building permit.

In summary, Permits...who needs them?!! Everyone!! Ask yourself this...Isn’t your family’s safety, enjoyment of the improvements, the benefits reaped at time of sale more important to justify the need for a building permit when required? It’s your choice...maybe."

Hope this helps!
Old 07-13-04, 07:20 AM
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We are currently in the middle of a basement finishing project. After going through all the same questions that you're going through, we did decide to go the permit route. We've found that the city building department has been very helpful and during the application process made recommendations that make a lot of sense. For example, he made some recommendations on the placement of hvac ducts and vents for maximum year-round comfort. This and a few other things were certainly worth the $100 we paid for the permit fee. I feel I have a resource when I have questions along the way since we're doing the majority of the work ourselves. We are putting in a vent for the bathroom down there, but we have a full bath with a shower.

I also heard the comments about eventual problems with selling the house, additional taxes, homeowners claims being declined if we didn't get the permit and make sure everything was up to code. I called the county assesor and found out the in our county (Kane County, IL) for major remodel projects, we can get a 4-year exemption from paying additional taxes on the increased value of the home.

I hope this helps.
Old 07-14-04, 12:10 PM
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Thank you all for your help. I think I'll make the right decision and get the permits to avoid any problems.

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