Retrospective building permit for garage conversion in Bellevue, WA.

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  #1  
Old 01-20-16, 12:21 AM
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Retrospective building permit for garage conversion in Bellevue, WA.

I have just found out that the house I bought 12 years ago had a garage conversion which has no permit on record. There is no record of when the conversion was done so it could be anything from 13 to 50 years ago!

Is it true that I am now responsible for getting a permit and if the work is not compliant with current regulations that I may have to redo the complete conversion to current standards? The home is in Bellevue, WA.

I had no idea about any of these permits and the potential costs are beyond my means. This has become very stressful and seems unfair.

Would anyone know the process which I must undertake to sort out this problem? Can I be forced to remove the conversion?

Any advice would be very very much appreciated....thank you.
 
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  #2  
Old 01-20-16, 01:24 AM
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Welcome to the forums.

We keep one topic in a single thread so this is the only one running for you.

I can't answer your question but there are those here that can. They'll be by soon.
 
  #3  
Old 01-20-16, 01:38 AM
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Thanks. Yes I posted in wrong area initially. Fingers crossed.
Many thanks
 
  #4  
Old 01-20-16, 04:17 AM
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A lot depends on your local permit office, some are more lenient than others and some will grandfather it in. How did you come about finding there was no permit/inspections?
 
  #5  
Old 01-20-16, 04:17 AM
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Mr mutley, I am not a lawyer, a builder or a resident of Bellevue (or even King County) but I do know a little bit about the laws in Washington state as I have lived here all my 65+ years. We DO have some rather restrictive building codes on the state, county and municipal level but they don't even come close to the restrictive codes in many other parts of the country.

I first want to ask you how you found out that the garage-to-living-quarters conversion that was done prior to your ownership was not done with benefit of permits and inspections. When did you purchase your house? We have some pretty strict requirements that have been in place for at least sixteen years requiring a seller of a home to disclose any modifications of the original structure and whether or not these modifications were done with permitting and inspections. To the best of my knowledge a person that makes unpermitted changes CAN be prosecuted by the "Authority Having Jurisdiction" (AHJ) as can an owner that allows such changes to be made. However, I do NOT know of any case (there may be thousands but I have no knowledge of it ever happening) where a subsequent owner has been prosecuted for unlawful alterations made prior to their ownership.

When a home is sold in Washington the sale requires the seller to submit a "form 17" where they disclose any known defect prior to the sale. This form is, as I recall, two full pages and one of the questions asked is if any unpermitted work has been done and whether or not all required inspections of work were done. The only acceptable answers from the seller are yes, no and I don't know. Any no answer requires a detailed written description of the work and the I don't know answer can only be used regarding work done prior to the seller's ownership or if seller is an agent (personal representative) to the seller, generally used when selling the home of a deceased or mentally incompetent owner. The form 17 MAY be dismissed IF the buyer decides to purchase the property AS IS and this does happen in a fair number of transactions. Again, to the best of my knowledge a subsequent owner is rarely, if ever, held responsible for alterations made by a previous owner UNLESS such alterations are obvious to a lay person as being unsafe. I can't even begin to think of such an alteration that would be so visible and yet escape the notice of the city or county inspectors until after a home was sold. I know from personal experience that building inspectors DO "cruise the neighborhoods" looking for unpermitted construction.

My advice would be to not look for trouble by contacting city hall or the county (if you are outside the city limits), identifying yourself and then asking about some prior work. If you are truly concerned about the quality or safety of the work you can contact a competent builder or tradesman (plumber, electrician, whatever) and ask for an opinion. Or contact a licensed architect or engineer and ask for a professional opinion. IF one of these professionals state that you DO have a less-than-safe situation THEN you find someone to correct the situation and at that time you have the contractor obtain the necessary permits for the remediation. Not "pulling" permits and/or not getting inspections at the time of construction IS a violation of law but YOU should not be held liable for the transgressions of others that preceded you.

Oh, the word you want is retroactive, not retrospective.
 
  #6  
Old 01-20-16, 04:37 AM
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Hi and thank you for your replies...very much appreciated.

I was having minor interior cosmetic improvements done and also replaced an old bath. Somehow the work being done was 'noticed' by Bellevue building permit officer (apologies for my lack of correct terminology). They left a card in my door as they wanted to arrange an inspection to see what work was being done. During that visit it was mentioned to me that the garage had, at some point been converted to extra living space, and that there was no permit on record.

I had no idea whatsoever about these permits and when I looked back at the original sales contract (12+ years ago) there was no mention of the garage conversion.

I was told that I was responsible for getting a permit retroactively and there was talk of me having to submit to them new architect drawings of the current structure even though it was done 'at some undisclosed point' before I purchased the house. Now I am extremely worried as to what to do next as no advice on the process was given other than I need to sort out the permit. I have horror stories in my head about having to have the all old work torn out and a new spec conversion done...and I simply do not have the money to do that and so am now left wondering where to start.

What started off as a simple sprucing up of my aging home has become a potential nightmare.

I really appreciate the time you took to respond and any further thoughts or advice would be gratefully received.

Many thanks.
 
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Old 01-20-16, 04:44 AM
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You might consider consulting with a real estate attorney to find out exactly what your rights/obligations are.
 
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Old 01-20-16, 04:53 AM
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Yes that sounds like a sensible next step.

Are there any that you have heard good reports on and could recommend?

Unfortunately (or fortunately!) I have no experience whatsoever regarding building regulations and law.

Thankyou
 
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Old 01-20-16, 05:36 AM
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Were you represented by an Attorney when you purchased the property ?

If you were, and if s/he rendered a Title Opinion at that time, then you may be entitled to some pro bono legal work to get this matter resolved, and I'f give him or her the courtesy of a visit first, before engaging the services of another Attorney to go after him.
 
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Old 01-20-16, 05:46 AM
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attorney - Are there any that you have heard good reports on and could recommend?
We don't make those types of recommendations ..... even if we were knowledgeable about them in your area. I like Vermont's suggestion about contacting those who were involved when you bought the place.
 
  #11  
Old 01-20-16, 06:07 AM
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During that visit it was mentioned to me that the garage had, at some point been converted to extra living space, and that there was no permit on record.
This might, and I repeat might be a case of just giving up the living area, fingers crossed. Obviously, the comforts of home would be removed, anything that was added to make it a habitable space.

The only people that can answer that is the building department.

I know in Cal, it's next to impossible to get a permit to convert an attached garage into living space.
The answer here? Just don't do it..
 
  #12  
Old 01-20-16, 08:53 AM
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In Washington state, because of their very specific laws concerning the buying and selling of property, attorneys are very rarely used in conjunction with residential properties. As a result there are very few attorneys here that are well versed in real estate law and almost all of them limit their practice to commercial properties. Quite honestly, a licensed RE agent probably knows more about the laws concerning real estate than does the average generalist attorney.

What we do have is laws requiring full disclosure when selling a house. There is a form, form 17 to be exact, that must be filled out by the seller answering various questions on the property. Among the questions are ones asking if any changes have been made in the building and if so were the proper permits drawn and inspections made. The only possible answers are yes, no and I don't know. If any work has been performed without permit and inspection then that work must be fully disclosed by the seller and failure to do so can be pursued as a breach of contract by the buyer against the seller. The only time the I don't know answer is allowed is when the seller is acting as an agent (not RE agency but a personal representative of the seller) such as an executor selling a deceased person's property or some other agent selling the property of someone declared mentally incompetent. A form 17 CAN be negated by the buyer accepting the property "as is" in their purchase offer.

The violation of the building codes happens when a contractor does not "pull" a permit for a job or when the owner doing the work him/her self does not pull the permit or request the necessary inspections. It is debatable whether an owner removed from the original violator can be held responsible for the violations themselves but they may need to prove that the applicable construction techniques were followed in the unpermitted work.

Quite honestly, at this late date I doubt seriously if the present owner could sue the previous owner and further I have my doubts that the city would prevail if the case went to court. There MAY be a recourse for the present owner through their owner's title insurance policy, maybe not. Bellevue, being a rather upscale city, DOES have the money to pursue the issue to trial but at this point I think it may be more of a bluff by the city inspector. Consultation with an attorney definitely is a good idea but it doesn't have to be a specialist in real estate law. It IS a tough situation for the current owner and he can't just ignore it.
 
  #13  
Old 01-20-16, 09:16 AM
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Agreed it's tough, and I over simplified it.
I'm thinking it's cheaper and easier to demo what the city has a problem with than get it into shape.

This is speculation, but I would think if the garage was reverted back to a garage, whatever was there originally should not have to be improved.
 
  #14  
Old 01-20-16, 02:55 PM
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Thank you everyone for all your advice.

It's been very helpful and I appreciate the time you all took to respond.
 
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