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What is the point of a residential permit?

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  #1  
Old 08-14-09, 12:10 PM
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What is the point of a residential permit?

Can anyone give me a “dumbed-down” explanation for the purpose of town/ city permits when doing residential work in your own home?

I understand it’s an approach to make all town structures uniformly safe…however, what if I don’t take out a permit?

If I do electrical repair and don’t take out a permit, what happens? Finish my basement? Install a driveway?

I just bought a home that has horrendous…HORRENDOUS safety violations…in-wall junction boxes covered with foil, uncapped electrical wire sitting on attic insulation, 14 gauge wire spliced with EXTENSTION CORD wire, ungrounded GFCI’s, a finished basement without a permit…the list goes on.

Can I sue the previous owners? Is it my responsibility to fix all this? They clearly did all of this work illegally and without a permit and it seems like nothing happened, nothing was enforced. So why should I bother taking out any permit in the future?
 
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Old 08-14-09, 12:40 PM
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Just a layman's opinion...but all those things you just found are why permits are normally required. As you said..its about safety. Are some rules overkill? Personally I think the answer is Yes. While I understand the reasoning behind them, people 60 years ago probably felt the same way...lol

Did you have the home professionally inspected? Were any of these issues noted? Some people have said they go so far as to go down to the permits office and see if work that is obviously after initial construction has had permits pulled and inspections done.

Sounds like everything you found was easy to do without major activity visible.

Are they even required in your area? Many rural places don't....many don't even require Pro's to be licensed. When my Dad added a garage to the house back in rural OH (house in the middle of 90 acre farm) he had it almost completed when the county inspector showed up and asked about a permit. He didn't pay any fine or anything since he had built it way over what was required and they were nicer back in those days.

If this is a recent purchase you may want to check with your local inspectors or permits office. As to suing..no clue..but I'd be checking with a lawyer and looking at the purchase contract.

Oh...and its not the things you can see that are the problem..its the things you can't!
 
  #3  
Old 08-14-09, 01:19 PM
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Permits have a two fold purpose - to insure the work is done properly and to generate money for the county/city [not the permit fees but the increase in property tax]
 
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Old 08-14-09, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Gunguy45 View Post
Did you have the home professionally inspected? Were any of these issues noted? Some people have said they go so far as to go down to the permits office and see if work that is obviously after initial construction has had permits pulled and inspections done.
Of course it was inspected....but they inspector doesn't check for permits.

The basement was finished by the previous owners. I went down to town hall to check for a basement permit...there was none. The basement was poorly done, so we demolished it. I called town hall and they said it was in my best interest to get a demolition permit. So......I need to get a permit to demolish a basement that was put in illegally.....and isn't even recognized by the town on my tax bill....? I mean, I don't get it.

I DIDN'T get that demolition permit.....so if town hall finds out that I demolished my basement without a permit....what can they do to me? Force me to put up a new basement?!?

It seems to me that this is similar to our federal tax system......it's all done on the "honor" system. These permits are never enforced, only when nosy neighbors come around.
 
  #5  
Old 08-14-09, 02:07 PM
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I wasn't being critical..I was asking for information. Before purchasing, I did not have an inspection done on this home..as I felt I knew enough to look and check for possible problems. I did find a few things in the attic, but they were minor and easily corrected. I asked for receipts if available for all maintenance work done (roof, HVAC) and did check at the city office about permits for work.

The loan company had an appraisal, but thats not the same.

A good inspector would make note of issues which are possibly against code and evidence of non-permitted work. Not one who works for the Realtor of course..he wants the sale to go through.

Permits are enforced..it just depends on the locality. See my example about my father..and that was 30 some years ago. Also knew a guy back in VA who replaced his gas WH..then set the old one at the curb on trash day. Guess what..notice from codes people that a fee was needed and he would need to come apply for a permit and get an inspection. Guess they figured nobody would just remove the WH and not replace it...lol.
Non-issue for electric WH.
 
  #6  
Old 08-15-09, 05:27 PM
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Hi k19_1234,

The building permits are in your best interest. Let me explain why
Just imagine the follow situation :
Homeowner XXXX buys a house and decides that he is going to make some improvements. His project is a home theater in the basement. So, he checks what is necessary in the DIY website then he buys the materials, and does the job. But wait, there is a wall in the middle so the homeowner decides to demolish the wall (BTW he doesn't notice that there is a column in the wall). Also he does some "fixes" in the electrical and he decides that, as it is a home theater, it doesn't need the window. Now, he decides that a permit is not necessary
So this is the point where the problems start
1 - for all the works related with the house safety (structural, electrical, etc), the homeowner must get a permit and a inspection. It is the law, so if the homeowner doesn't get the permit.... he is not following the law and his hometheater is illegal
2 - The permit plans / project should be signed by a PRO. This means that the professional is assuming the liability of these works

In the example above (without the permit) , if the house starts to fall, or if it shows structural damage or if the electrical installation gets on fire and someone in the basement can't go out because he closed the egress window... two things will happen: one the homeowner will be penalized and in addition, the insurance will not pay a cent because the homeowner did illegal construction work or he didn't report an illegal construction

Hope this helps
 
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