9 Reasons to Get a Building Permit
I've been there. Before I was a licensed contractor and architect, I was a homeowner and did many DIY home improvement projects. I would ask myself, "Do I really need to get a building permit." It seemed quite a hassle and would require a fee, paperwork, inspections, and make the timeline longer. However, I'm glad I did. In the twenty years since moving to New Jersey, I have seen many horror stories of non-permitted construction projects.
Permits are in place to ensure that work is done according to building codes, and codes exist to protect the safety of the people in the home and the longevity of the home itself. Here are 9 reasons why getting a building permit should be your only choice when doing home improvement work requiring a permit.
It's the law. Most towns communicate which home improvement projects require or do not require a permit. At a high level, if you are adding or moving walls, plumbing, electric or HVAC (heating, venting & air-conditioning) you will likely need a building permit. If work is done without a permit, it is breaking municipal and state laws.
Fines. Non-permitted work is subject to fines issued to both the homeowner and the contractor. These fines can be several thousand dollars.
Stop Work. When non-permitted work is discovered, it will often trigger a Stop Work order. All that time that you thought you were saving evaporates as your work is stopped. It doesn't start again until the permit is applied for with appropriate drawings, permits received, and fines paid. This can take months. Some stop orders trigger court appearances which can add more months and time in court.
Barrier to Home Sale. If non-permitted work is discovered during a real estate transaction (when the attention of home inspectors, appraisers and building departments are all on the home) it can hold up a sale and a potential buyer could walk away.
Voiding of Home Insurance Policy. If there is a claim made involving non-permitted work, the insurance company can deny coverage. This could be for property damage or bodily damage claims.
Project Review. The permit process requires that documentation and drawings are reviewed by code officials to ensure that the plans for the project have not neglected critical components. This is so much better to know before the project starts!
Inspections for DIYers. The permit includes inspections which buy you some level of oversight of your project by seasoned building professionals - contractors, electricians, plumbers - who have become inspectors. Many of the inspectors that I have worked with are incredibly knowledgable, reasonable and helpful.
Quality control. For homeowners working with contractors, the inspectors provide some unbiased quality control to ensure that the contractors you have hired are doing the work according to building code.
Work progress payments. With the inspections at critical stages of the work progress, you have an objective "ruling" to confirm that certain stages are indeed complete. Without the plumbing inspector signing that the "Rough Plumbing" phase had been completed and passed inspection, would you know that as a homeowner? Would you trust your contractor who may be looking for a progress payment?
Protect yourself, your family, your wallet and your home - get a building permit!