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Why you need a building permit

by Jessica Wormeck April 18, 2012

Building permits are required in most municipalities for any kind of repair, improvement, construction, modification or demolition work on a house. While it may seem costly and time intensive, the permitting process and subsequent inspections help protect your family from safety risks like structural failures, fire hazards caused by electrical and heating systems, and electrical shock.

In addition, work done without a permit can come back and haunt you when it comes time to sell your home. Here’s why:

  • In many states, home sellers must disclose repairs or additions to potential buyers. If they were done without a permit, the buyer may demand that the seller get the work permitted and inspected by the city before the transaction can be completed, or ask for a reduction in the sale price.
  • If it is found that you have done non-permitted work to your home, you could be fined between three and 10 times the cost of the permit, erasing any financial savings from not getting a permit in the first place.
  • In some cases, cities can force you to undo the work (or parts of it) to ensure that the underlying components were constructed safely. It’s easy to see how this could complicate a home sale.

Even if you are not selling your home, you should be aware that some insurance companies will deny a claim if a fire originates in, or another problem stems from, an illegally constructed area. For many reasons, it makes sense to get the proper permit required by your local municipality for any home construction or repairs.