Obtaining a building permit is required in most cities for homeowners making modifications to their residence. Required permits vary from city to city based on the remodeling project. In addition, enforcement of these permit laws varies from city to city.
The homeowner (or his designee) is required to file plans and pay fees to the city in order to receive a permit. Improvements are given a value and they may result in an increase in property tax if they increase the value of the property. Inspections are often required and that could mean waiting for inspectors to approve the work to be done which can be time consuming and inconvenient to the homeowner. For this reason, some homeowners skip the permit process.
If you fail to get a permit when one is needed, the city may discover the omission some time in the future. Acquiring a permit retroactively can often be more expensive and problematic than having obtained the permit before work commenced. The homeowner could be required to tear up floors or take down walls so the inspection can take place to determine if work was done in accordance with city procedures. Work done without a permit must, by law, be disclosed to any prospective purchaser. The owner may need to discount the sale price or perform costly or time-consuming repairs before title can be transferred.
If you’re a prospective buyer, research whether work on the premises has been done according to code and with the proper permits. These permits may be obtained by going directly to your municipality’s Building & Safety office or by hiring a “permit puller” who will research the permits for you.