In order to legally retrofit or add on to your home, building permits are usually required. They are not a requirement for every job around the house, but anything that involves electrical, plumbing, sidewalk, foundational or other major work almost always requires the proper permission. That is not say that everybody goes through the proper channels when adding on to or retrofitting their home.
The process of acquiring the right building permit for a job requires you to go through a procedure that can be costly and frustrating at times. This is enough to make some people forgo the whole process and do the work without any permit. Keep in mind that although the city won’t catch every offender, if they do discover the work you did without a permit, at the very least you will face a fine. The municipality might also demand that you remove the work and redo it with the proper permits, adding dramatically to your cost.
When a Permit is Needed
In general, a building permit is required by your city of residence whenever you will undertake the erection, construction, alteration, movement, enlargement, improvement, conversion, removal or demolition of a building. Just about every conceivable type of work falls into one of these categories. Electrical rewiring work, plumbing, tearing down a wall, fixing the roof and adding a bathroom are just a few examples. Because the process of getting a permit can be a hassle and they have a fee associated with them, some people opt not to get one. For whatever reason, a number of myths have sprung up about building permits. Likely, it is because a false belief validates one’s actions–namely, not getting a permit.
Building Permit Myths
Myth 1 – “I don’t need a permit”
Probably the most common myth about building permits is that a permit is not necessary. If you are doing work on your home that falls into one of the aforementioned categories–which includes just about everything–a permit is required. In addition to building permits, sidewalk work also requires permission from the city.
Myth 2 – “I know how to do the job safely”
Permits are primarily to ensure that the person undertaking the job does it safely. Many people think they know what they are doing when it comes to wiring projects or other work, but unless they are a contractor or have experience with it, they probably do not. Permits aim to make safety standards uniform.
Myth 3 – “The city just wants my money”
Although it is true that cities charge for building permits and generate a hefty amount each year depending on the frequency of permitted projects, the primary reason for gaining permission is to have an official record of the work you’ve done to your home or building and to ensure uniformity and safety.
Myth 4 – “My home’s value will increase with or without a permit”
Adding on to a home or modifying it in a way that will add value is a smart decision for any homeowner, but many financing institutions won’t approve a home loan for a potential buyer if there are no permits listed on file. This, in effect, can render the added value worthless if the home won’t sell.
Don’t be taken in by the myths surrounding the building permit process. Yes, they can take a while to be approved, but if you don’t get one and do the work anyway, you could be fined or be penalized in other ways. Permits are primarily for safety issues, so do the right thing and find out for yourself if you need one for a particular job.