What Permits Do You Need To Remodel A House?

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If you’re remodeling a house, you may need permits before you do the work. This applies whether you do the work yourself for you hire a contractor. You may need a permit whether you’re adding a bedroom, fixing a bathroom, or finishing the basement among others. 

Your local building department issues the permits and the information you must provide will likely vary. Building permits are meant to protect you (or the buyer if you’re selling). They aren’t meant to be a nuisance, but rather a way to ensure the remodeling project is done right. 

What Is A Building Permit?

A building permit is your local building department’s seal of approval to renovate the home. To get a permit, you must provide details of the remodeling project, including building designs and plans. The building department will review the plans and ensure they adhere to all local zoning and construction rules, as well as city codes. 

What Types Of Home Improvements Need Permits?

Not every home remodeling project requires a permit. Only those affecting the home’s structure or that make major changes to the home require a permit.

You’ll need permits whether you do the work or a contractor does them for you. The only difference is a contractor will likely pull the permits for you. Just make sure you work with a reputable contractor to ensure that he pulls the permits correctly.

How Does It Work?

It’s easy to get a building permit when you have the right documentation using the following process:

  • Contact your local building department to discuss the renovations
  • If they decide you need a permit, complete an application
  • Determine the type of permits you need, such as carpentry, plumbing, electrical or gas 
  • Draw up any plans the department requires
  • Submit the application and any applicable fees
  • Receive the permit and display it in your home’s window

Once you have the permit, find out what inspection points the building department requires. Some do a final inspection only, while others spot check the work throughout the process.

What Happens If You Remodel A House Without A Permit?

You might get away with remodeling a house without a permit initially, but it will get you in the end. A few times it may backfire include:

  • The renovations may not be safe, putting you or the buyers at risk. It may even put your home at risk of a fire hazard or other dangerous risk.
  • You may face fines for not pulling the proper contracts if the building department finds out.
  • The building department can ask you to undo the renovations.
  • You may have trouble getting financing on the property.

Can You Sell A House With Unpermitted Work?

You can sell a house with unpermitted work, but you’ll have to do one of the following:

  • Sell the house ‘as is’ with unpermitted work disclosures – If you are upfront with the buyer about the unpermitted work, you may get away with it, but at a lower negotiated price. Since buyers take on the risk of the unpermitted work, they usually want to pay less for the home.
  • Get retroactive permits – This may involve more work, such as tearing down certain walls or showing that the work is done correctly. It’s best to hire a contractor to look at the work and determine if it’s done right before involving the city to save yourself time, money, and headaches.
  • Find a cash buyer – You may need a cash buyer to buy your home with unpermitted work. Since lenders typically won’t include the remodeled portion of the home in the value (if it’s unpermitted), buyers may have a hard time getting finishing. Cash buyers don’t have to worry about it though.

If you’re going to remodel a house, make sure to pull the right permits. It may slow the process down, and cost a little more money, but it saves you in the end. You’ll be able to sell the home for its full value and won’t have any issues with the lender or buyer. 

Talk to your local building department about the permits you need before starting any large jobs. It’s better to be safe than sorry when dealing with home remodeling.