New home without permits?!?!?

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  #1  
Old 10-01-09, 10:49 AM
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New home without permits?!?!?

When buying a residential home, how can you protect yourself from making sure the home is "up to code"/ current with permits?

In the house I just purchased, it looks like the home's support beam was replaced by the previous owners but it doesn't appear a permit was taken out for it. Nothing was structurally altered, just replaced. I called the inspector and he said a permit was needed.

I'm a completely lay person, how on earth could I have prevented this from happening and what would a building inspector to do me if he found this out? How am I liable?

The whole permit/ inspection deal seems so very vague and sporadic with enforcement. I want to make sure I do the right things now to prevent surprises down the road but I don't want to incriminate myself if I don't have to (even thought I haven't done anything wrong!!!).
 
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Old 10-01-09, 11:10 AM
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NY (esp NYC) may be different....but in my limited experience..very few "repairs" need any sort of permit. As a rule, a one for one replacement, such as a door, sink, window, rotted stud, etc don't require a permit or inspection. If they did, the inspectors office would be the biggest department in the city...lol.

Exceptions are things like roofing, waterheaters, boilers, etc.
 
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Old 10-01-09, 02:34 PM
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Hi HansGruber

The building permit for the addition or the inspection for the structure replacements 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 and a bedroom in the basement. So, he checks what is necessary in the DIY website and 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. Finally, 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 / modification should be signed by a PRO. This means that the modifications are following the codes and 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 removed the egress window... two things will happen:
1 - the homeowner will be penalized
2 - 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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Old 10-01-09, 02:42 PM
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.... and most everywhere, today, a new house will have had all the necessary permits. But it can vary widely on older homes. Generally the well populated areas will have stronger code/permit enforcement than some of the rural areas.

My house was built when the local building dept did NO inspections except for electrical. Back then if you pulled a permit to build a house and never told them you finished - nothing was done until the tax man came along, saw the improvements and noted it on his tax papers. No small wonder that most never told the permit office the job was done. Only this year did they change the code requiring a permit to connect a driveway to a county road - and the way it's wrote, it probably isn't enforcable

But Gunguy is right, in most locales, common repairs don't require permits but major reno's do. I wouldn't worry about what's already been done [unless it's faulty] there isn't a whole lot you can do about it. Just cover your butt for the work you do [or have done] and get a permit if/when required.
 
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Old 10-01-09, 02:52 PM
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Originally Posted by pmgca View Post
Hi HansGruber

The building permit for the addition or the inspection for the structure replacements 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 and a bedroom in the basement. So, he checks what is necessary in the DIY website and 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. Finally, 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 / modification should be signed by a PRO. This means that the modifications are following the codes and 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 removed the egress window... two things will happen:
1 - the homeowner will be penalized
2 - 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
I completely understand the point of permits, I just don't understand the process.

It's like the police telling me to "drive safe, it's the law" yet not having speed limit signs and stop lights on the road.

If I go to sell the home and the next potential buyers ask me for a permit for the support beam work....what do I tell them?!?

I mean, if the house burns down because of the previous owner's faulty electric work due to a lack of permit...is the insurance company going to pay me anything? How on earth could I have known that information? I'm not a professional. I had an inspection but they don't cover hidden items.
 
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Old 10-01-09, 03:05 PM
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While the insurance company is within their right to deny a claim caused by faulty workmanship, the odds are they won't deny a claim for something faulty that wasn't readily apparent and the home owner had no knowledge of.

IMO there is no sense in losing sleep over things you can't change
 
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Old 10-01-09, 04:33 PM
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Mark, this is not how it works. And the homeowner should be very worried about this

HansGruber: I understand your point, but there are some important notes
1 - The first rule when your are going to buy a house, is get an inspection. It is not mandatory, but is smart to get one. Lets focus in the support beam--> it is illegal because there is not a permit for the modification of this structural element. Perhaps it is OK with the codes but you simply don't know, because only a professional can determine this. The previous owner of the house (the one who did the modification) should pay for the permit. I'd assume that this is is not a possibility now
2 - If you are going to sell the house and the prospective buyer goes with an inspector, the inspector will ask for the permit. For sure. And this would be a problem for you
3 - Insurance: say there is fire. The insurance will look if everything was in order in the house... and if there is just an illegal nail, they have the legal right to deny the payment.

So, this is my professional advice: go to the building department and ask about the rules for permits in case you wish to change a beam (for example) . Then call the local home inspection association and ask for advice for this situation (usually is free)
Then you will have the big picture. I am sure that you will decide that coming clear with this issue will be cheap and safe for you and your family

If you have the webpage of your building dept, just post the link--> I will be glad to check the requirements for you
 
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Old 10-02-09, 07:59 AM
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Patricia,

Insurance companies would have to prove negligence in order to deny payment for something like that. It's happened a few times around here. Homeowner did some electrical work to his home which was not too code and caused his home to burn. Insurance company could not deny his claim because they couldn't prove he purposly wired his home incorrectly and it was not negligence.
 
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Old 10-02-09, 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by pmgca View Post
Mark, this is not how it works. And the homeowner should be very worried about this

1 - The first rule when your are going to buy a house, is get an inspection. It is not mandatory, but is smart to get one.
Now, when you say "inspection"....is this a third party inspection that protects my best interests or an inspection from the city to determine if everything is permit/ code compliant (does this even exist)?

I had a third party inspection that protects my interests, however the inspector doesn't pull permit info and compare what's on record at city hall to the actual home.

I'm by no means a careless DIYer and I read up on as much as I can before doing the work but the home that I bought has been a death trap. According to my town, I should have pulled 10 permits to fix all the things that I've completed so far. It's almost like I should play the ignorance card and leave them in a dangerous condition than to fix them! I'd get less guff from the town and also collection insurance should anything happen. This notion is just silly to me.

But thank you for the information. I'd rather be safe than sorry.
 
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Old 10-02-09, 08:17 AM
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Hans...just wondering....what "repairs" have you done that would require so many permits and inspections? Can't imagine that many things were wrong that weren't found on a good home inspection report? Just curious....
 
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Old 10-02-09, 08:19 AM
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Originally Posted by HotinOKC View Post
Patricia,

Insurance companies would have to prove negligence in order to deny payment for something like that. It's happened a few times around here. Homeowner did some electrical work to his home which was not too code and caused his home to burn. Insurance company could not deny his claim because they couldn't prove he purposly wired his home incorrectly and it was not negligence.

That's what I'm kind of getting at. I've read my insurance policy and ignorance is bliss to them.

I just discovered a concealed junction box in one of my walls...which is NOT code. But there is no easy way of removing the box without ripping up 3 other walls. If I contact the building inspector, I know he's going to make me remove it. However, if a fire should happen later on, how does the insurance company know I'm at fault?
 
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Old 10-02-09, 08:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Gunguy45 View Post
Hans...just wondering....what "repairs" have you done that would require so many permits and inspections? Can't imagine that many things were wrong that weren't found on a good home inspection report? Just curious....
  • Replaced all electrical switches, receptacles.
  • Added a couple new receptacles (from existing circuits which had minimal load).
  • Rewired a couple of light boxes which had exposed wires.
  • Replaced an extension cord when NM should have been used.
  • Demolished the basement, which wasn’t even considered “finished” on town records.
  • Added a couple minor plumbing items.
  • Sistered a basement joist.

I called the building inspector on half of these and he said I would need a permit for all. I’d spend more time filling out paperwork than I would fixing!
 
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Old 10-02-09, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by HansGruber View Post
In the house I just purchased, it looks like the home's support beam was replaced by the previous owners but it doesn't appear a permit was taken out for it. Nothing was structurally altered, just replaced. I called the inspector and he said a permit was needed.
I am not talking about electrical outlets or wires in this case. My concern is the replacement of the support beam mentioned by the homeowner in the paragraph above
This is a concern and yes, it can be proved by any home inspector or insurance inspector

Check these links
Department of Buildings
 
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Old 10-02-09, 08:42 AM
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Hmmm, no expert...but I would have thought except for the new outlets and the extension cord thing (and maybe the demo of the basement, depending of the extent of it?) that none of those would require any permits....

Well, NY is probably stricter in some areas than anywhere I've lived. If in NYC then I'm sure they are, but I'd think the more rural areas wouldn't be.
 
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Old 10-02-09, 09:19 AM
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The IBC is applied in US and Canada
I am with this code in front of me, opened in the page 576 - Appendix J.
All the elements I described need a permit

Hope this helps
 
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Old 10-02-09, 11:05 PM
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Originally Posted by pmgca View Post
The IBC is applied in US and Canada
I am with this code in front of me, opened in the page 576 - Appendix J.
All the elements I described need a permit

Hope this helps
The IBC is a guide, your locality can take it, leave it, take part of it and write their own for the rest, etc.

Florida is a good example, as it uses the IBC as a base for it's building codes. That said, your locality decides what requires a permit. Replacing a switch or receptacle with one of say, a different color, would certainly not require a permit where I live.
 
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Old 10-03-09, 03:55 AM
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In reading the OP, we are only assuming the beam was replaced. He is not really sure, only that it "appears" to have been replaced. It may have been made obvious via house settling. Uninstalling a non permitted basement was probably a good idea. If new construction is done there, a permit would definitely be required. Consulting the permit department on any modification can be your best friend.
 
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Old 10-03-09, 11:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Pendragon View Post
Replacing a switch or receptacle with one of say, a different color, would certainly not require a permit where I live.
That is exactly what the IBC says....
 
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Old 10-06-09, 07:40 AM
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Originally Posted by HansGruber View Post
When buying a residential home, how can you protect yourself from making sure the home is "up to code"/ current with permits?
In my experience buying and selling homes in several states, almost no jurisdiction requires an existing home to be up to current code when it's sold. Depending on the age of the house such a requirement could be prohibitively expensive.

I have lived in areas where just changing a defective outlet, wall switch, or kitchen faucet required a permit and inspection, and also in areas where a homeowner couldn't legally do any such work even on his own home. Where I currently live, homeowners can do almost anything they want as long as they get a permit and an inspection.

As for home inspections, I've always gotten one when buying an existing house. But inspectors will be the first ones to tell you they are not code experts and cannot certify a home's status relative to code compliance. Some violations are easier to spot than others and an inspector will certainly render his opinion of what he finds but that's about it.

Nothing has been said about disclosure statements. I know, depending on location, that some (likely very few) specifically ask about the seller's knowledge of unpermitted work. I've personally never seen that question.
 
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Old 10-06-09, 10:07 AM
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Obviously things are much different in the big cities than here in the rural areas. In my 30 years of home ownership, I've never gotten a permit for any work I've done or had done by professionals. That includes several water heater, furnace, and A/C replacements. Most people I know even do major home additions without getting a permit or getting the city involved.

The building inspector in my small town is essentially the city "flunky" and literally the guy who has been kicked out of every other city department, so the building inspection department (a one man show) is where the city shoves marginal employees until they're finally forced to terminate them. The last "building inspector" they had was so sleezy that many people would not allow him in their homes.

The general philosophy here in the hinterlands is that building permits are nothing more than a ploy to put the improvements on the tax role, even though they may be nothing more than updates or maintenance. Also, there is a fairly strong sentiment about keeping government out of our lives -- and our homes.
 
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Old 10-06-09, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by chandler View Post
In reading the OP, we are only assuming the beam was replaced. He is not really sure, only that it "appears" to have been replaced. It may have been made obvious via house settling. Uninstalling a non permitted basement was probably a good idea. If new construction is done there, a permit would definitely be required. Consulting the permit department on any modification can be your best friend.
It appears to have been replaced due to water damage. The replacement looks like it was done in the past year or so.

I'd like to get this signed off however I'm very anxious about incriminating myself if I call the inspector. I simply don't have the money to remove and/or replace the beam again if he deems it not up to code.

I'm obviously a novice in this area but is something like this cause for removing a CO on the house?
 
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Old 10-06-09, 01:02 PM
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I always thought the CO was just for new houses although I supose they could condem a house if it was bad enough. I'm sure they would give you time to make the repairs.

What exactly does this support beam hold up? why do you think it's in violation?
 
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Old 10-08-09, 08:26 AM
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Originally Posted by marksr View Post
I always thought the CO was just for new houses although I supose they could condem a house if it was bad enough. I'm sure they would give you time to make the repairs.

What exactly does this support beam hold up? why do you think it's in violation?
It's the main support beam for the home.

I'm not an expert but the beam looks completely solid. If anything it might be better than parts of the original beam since the new section appears to use pressure-treated wood.

Theoretically, lets say I contact the building department and they deem the work to be good…how do they charge me for it? In my town, it’s $x fee per every $y cost (ex. $5 for every $100 spent). I didn’t install this. I have no clue what the cost is. How do they charge me for it?

I’m probably looking WAY to into this subject but that’s the only way I’ll ever learn.
 
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Old 10-08-09, 08:35 AM
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I guess what many of us are asking is.."What do you mean by main support beam?". There are many support members in most homes..not just one main beam.

If you think it would help us understand....http://forum.doityourself.com/electr...your-post.html
 
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Old 10-08-09, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Gunguy45 View Post
I guess what many of us are asking is.."What do you mean by main support beam?". There are many support members in most homes..not just one main beam.

If you think it would help us understand....http://forum.doityourself.com/electr...your-post.html
An example would be:

http://www.theschniers.net/images/house/IMG_0367A.JPG

The first 3 feet leading into the foundation were replaced and a new lally column added where the old beam was cut (or where the old and new beam sections meet).
 
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Old 10-08-09, 11:21 AM
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Ok...much clearer now...TY!
 
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