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Building Without a Permit

I am always surprised about the things people build without a permit.  Recently in court I had a defendant who had built an addition without any permits.  He couldn’t even claim ignorance because he was in the building trade.  He then complained when the inspector saw that his deck had been built without a permit.  The defendant’s excuse for that one was that he bought the house that way.  In another case, the homeowners only hired subcontractors who wouldn’t apply for permits.  One of the potential subcontractors asked too many questions, didn’t get hired and turned the owners in to the municipality.  In my book, The Building Process Simplified, I discussed the trouble people can get into when they cut corners and don’t do their due diligence before they buy property.  I only wish more people would read that chapter in the book before they begin construction.  Given the current economic circumstances I’m suspect that more and more people are failing to get permits in order to save money.  Inevitably this is going to lead to some tragic consequences.

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  1. travelinoncoffee
    June 6th, 2009 at 07:34 | #1

    Came across this article in a google search. I’m having similar issues with a municipality and am looking for case law relating to selective enforcement and prejudice issues. I own all the realestate around the town hall, and have been prevented from openning a business for 10 years, and near bankruptcy. I had permitted all work on the premises and all had been approved, yet they will not issue a change use nor occupancy permit. The entire community is flabbergasted by all this and I am at my witts end. can anyone help direct me to a resolution?

  2. JamesD
    June 11th, 2009 at 05:54 | #2

    Thanks for the useful info. It’s so interesting

  3. Jeff
    July 3rd, 2009 at 19:18 | #3

    Thanks for this. Renovating our garage, trying to see if permit is required or not.

  4. July 14th, 2009 at 15:49 | #4

    I built a functional sculpture, composed of pallets to cover my car and motorcycle and to act as a base to the rest of the sculpture which is not complete, There is no electricity or water services to the sculpture, there is no floor or permanent foundation. The tow code enforcer sent a summons to me for erecting a building without obtaining permits. Did I mention the entire sculpture is built out of pallets and other found materials, there could be no plans submitted, the sculpture is primitive but has stood through two heavy winters, I live on a dead end facing a lake with only one neighbor who is proud to have a creative person next door. There is no danger to another person or property besides my own. The building code is written so that anything with a roof is considered a building, and can not be created on any property with out plans and permits, apparently we live in a strict police state and even though we live with the ideal of pursuit of happiness, that includes nailing a few pieces of wood together, you are just out of luck. I go to the local court this Thursday to defend my art. Is there anything I can take with me aid in my cause to keep this sculpture?

    • Linda Pieczynski
      July 14th, 2009 at 19:03 | #5

      It’s often very difficult for people to defend themselves without the benefit of legal advice. I always urge people who think they have a defense to seek the assistance of an attorney in the area who is familiar with defense litigation. He or she could advise you if you have a First Amendment defense.

  5. j-ose
    March 31st, 2010 at 00:30 | #6

    sonoma county building permit have screwed me completely. doing it the legal way (obtaining a permit) is a joke and a depravation of property rights. permit department said i could build on my property, so i purchased a metal building 1500sqft for 20k engineering another 8k. i got started on the process of obtaining building a permit to errect this building. to my surprise i was signed off 4 departments before i got to the 5th department i was hulted. i was told i could NOT errect anything on my property after spending close to 30k i was told to throw away the building i purchased. i was furious !!!! i was told that sonoma county RR Rural Residential District Section 26-18-010 (f) prohibited me from errecting any building over 120sqft. now i have a building that cant be arrected and spent 30k down the drain! anyone please provide any help!!

  6. Linda Pieczynski
    March 31st, 2010 at 07:33 | #7

    I cover this topic in my book, the Building Process Simplified, about how important it is for people to research not only the building requirements but also the zoning requirements for a parcel of property. If they don’t do this, they end up having the type of problem you ran into, spending lots of money with no results.

  7. David shearer
    August 7th, 2010 at 16:14 | #8

    The heart of the matter here is how much authority SHOULD the government have when a property owner wishes to build on his land. People who build without permits often do so out of a Libertarian conviction that what they do with the land they own, to the extent that it does not infringe on the welfare of their neighbors, is their own business and should not come under the review of a government agency. An example of such owner primacy would be building a residential structure to house one’s self and family, and the requisite structures to support family activities, such as a barn. Obviously any lender would have the option to decline to fund any such project should they feel their capital would be at risk. And it would be imprudent to extend this right to build to any endeavor where “public” safety would be an issue, such as a commercial structure or residences built for the express purpose of being resold.

  8. January 10th, 2011 at 22:59 | #9

    thanks for providing valuable info about the topic. I am a fan within your website. Keep up the great job.

  9. Rebecca
    February 24th, 2011 at 12:04 | #10

    my ex husbnd built and addtion on to my home 9 years ago he did not pull any permits, now that I am divorced and paid him out to keep my home I found this out what can the building dept do to me. The addtion was added to my mobil home I cant remove it because we knocked down wall on the mobile home to make it one big home he built it well and I think to code. I live out in the county, should I inform the tax appairser and the building deptment, I don’t know what to do

  10. February 25th, 2011 at 06:59 | #11

    I’m sorry but I can’t provide legal advice on a specific topic.

  11. Dennis
    March 10th, 2011 at 01:22 | #12

    Is there any state or county in any state where you don’t need a permit?

  12. Dennis
    March 10th, 2011 at 01:24 | #13

    Is there any state or county in any state where you don’t need a permit? I wonder what the buildings would look like… Creativity gone wild without limits

  13. Josh
    May 26th, 2011 at 15:19 | #14

    Dennis, There is something close. The county and state have permits, but Michael Reynolds has fought hard to make some pretty big changes. Check out Earthships.com. Amazingly creative self sustainable buildings built with recycled materials. They are stronger than your typical home and way more efficient.

  14. Tex2034
    May 30th, 2011 at 21:43 | #15

    Their are many counties in many states that do not require a permit. Most being from lower populated states and counties. The county i live in has no codes or permits. But the city i live in does. But does not enforce it really hard unless your doing something crazy. Its common here to add an additon to a room or a deck , a barn or garage and never have to worry about inspection. Unless your builing a new house. There are many benifits of living in the so called country or the south. It is also common practic here to build your own new house and get contractors to sign off on it. That is acceptable in alot of places. Ass long as you do it right and it is inspected by a licensed contractor its fine. Save thousands on electrical and plumbing. Ill be damed if i will live in a place that tells me how big or how tall or what type of house i have to build. Whatever happend to poeple standing up to what they believe in? Its your government. You want to build something on your property and they say no. VOTE THEM OUT! And make it clear why you did . Rules limiting builind on your property should be reserved for private communities only. You know the ones with a gate. One way in one way out. Otherwise its my land leave me the hell alone. I do however think you should show coutesy to your neighbors. Talk to them and try to make sure you wont affect their quality of life by building. Its all about money for most places. Elect officials with your best interest. If they abuse their power replace them. Be heard. I read about the contracter that got mad he didnt get the job and turned the people in. LOL . In small towns that would never happen. Sure go tell on me. But your gonna get your ass whiped and nobody else in the town is gonna hire you after they hear what you did. If you and your community cant stand up together to stop unfair codes. Then maybe you should just move.lol.

  15. GA42DAY
    June 18th, 2011 at 16:53 | #16

    My son who was only 25 years old at the time , was asked to tear down 2 , 12×12 decks and then the homeowner asked him if he could build he a small set of steps going to the front door and a similar set out back. She also noticed he messed up one of the steps and asked him to add a 6 x6 deck beside it. From my understanding these designs alone would fail inspection. He did not know to obtain a building permit and I am think he might have been intentionally set up . He says he did what the homeowner asked him to do and they paid him . Who’s is liable for this construction ?

  16. June 18th, 2011 at 21:19 | #17

    While I can’t give legal advice for specific cases, most building codes hold both the builder and the homeowner liable for violations of the building code such a performing work without a permit. Even when there is a contract between the parties specifying who should get the permit, both remain responsible for making sure a permit is obtained.

  17. GA42DAY
    June 18th, 2011 at 21:25 | #18

    @Linda Pieczynski
    thanks , he has what look like a bill of reciept . It states the hours he worked and the duties he preformed. I would have him argue that he was her employer because she knew he did not have workmans comp , business liscense and other requirements needed . I just feel he might have been taken advantage of. I told him not to do it again. I also heard that in some states its illegal so sue for more than what a job is worth. He told her if the steps he built were in a new residental house on the market the inspector would not like it, but she said they would live with it .

  18. GA42DAY
    June 18th, 2011 at 21:31 | #19

    If the worst is expected to happen. I may talk to a lawyer to see if he can file a law suit against the county under the new ” PLAIN WRITING ACT “signed by Obama administration this year . I went through the web page that stated requirement of what type of structures need a building permit. It does not state clearly in Plain writing that a deck needs to be inspected! To me all of the information was jeberish. It really makes you think and wonder what is being said. So if a dog house is considered a structure do I need to have the inspectors approval before I let me dog sleep in it at night ? What about a doll house ? Do I need to have the countys permission so barbie and ken can move in it ? Its a structure . Am I right or wrong .

  19. GA42DAY
    June 18th, 2011 at 21:38 | #20

    my sons an idiot ! I can see a problem about not inspecting a 2 story deck or something like that with a roof over it . But damn I got to loose sleep at night over a 6×6 deck . It was not even the size of a kitchen table, and a couple of steps like 4ft off the ground …

  20. June 18th, 2011 at 21:43 | #21

    Building permit requirements are very specific as to what kinds of structures require permits. There are a number of exclusions for structures based on size and use. Consult your local building code for the exceptions

  21. tatyana
    July 29th, 2011 at 14:55 | #22

    Height variance.

    I am an owner of the 120 years old Victorian house. Sometime ago (and I don’t have a record of it) hight pitch roof was burned down and was replaced with flat roof. We have purchased this property already in such condition. I have reserached the library records and found pictures of original roof, house is on Historic register. We wnat to restor the roof, but city makes me to go for a height variance since it is a view sensitive area. Of course there are peope who object.

    do I have any grounds?

    Thank you

  22. Linda Pieczynski
    July 29th, 2011 at 19:03 | #23

    I can’t give individual’s legal advice but I suggest you contact your county’s bar association and ask for a referral for a lawyer who does land use planning. Perhaps the local historical society might be of assistance as well since there may be special rules that overide the local jurisdiction’s authority. It’s worth looking into.

  23. Diana Trevino
    September 29th, 2011 at 10:16 | #24

    My husband decided to add to our utility room and attached it to our home and also added a second floor to it. I know you all must get this a lot that he did not think to get a permit due to the fact that he was attaching it to our home it had light and a bathroom already. Unfortunately the city came and denied him a variance. We have invested around $18,000.00 and need to know if there is anything else legally that we can do to keep our addition. We are willing to pay a penalty for lack of permit if needed.Our neighbors were upset because the city stop us.our home is situated in a colonia and in reality I am not harming anyone at all. the zoning commmitte all agreed okay but then one over turn everyone decision and they all followed but even they felt that it was okay with the exception of one. Please advice although a little to late but anything that might help me salvage these expenses.

  24. Guch
    September 30th, 2011 at 23:08 | #25

    There is an article on LovelandPolitics.com about this happening in Loveland, Colorado. The developer decided togoahead without permits and was prosecuted.

    What town?

  25. October 1st, 2011 at 07:46 | #26

    @Diana Trevino
    Unfortunately for you, the town has every right to demand the removal of the illegal structure. In my book, the Building Process Simplified, I write about the unforeseen consequences of violating the building code law by not submitting plans and getting permits. It can be an incredibly expensive mistake, costing a person not only the money he spent on building the illegal structure but also in legal fees and fines. It’s never wise to try and save money on permit fees when this is the natural consequence of such a decision.

  26. Mary
    October 7th, 2011 at 09:49 | #27

    I recently purchased a foreclosure – single family home – and of course there was a truth in housing report given to me prior to putting in an offer. There were multiple bidders and I was the…*lucky* winner. We closed on the home in July of this year and have been busy restoring it. The building inspector came in to look at the roughed in bathrooms and had a serious chip on her shoulder because, apparently, the previous owner pulled permits to do work on the home and never allowed them back to check on and approve his work (neighbors tell me he died in an accident, which is probably why). The building inspector didn’t just look at the work we were doing, but also every single room in the house, pointing out problems, angrily. She said that the back porch cannot be repaired at all because she *assumes* the previous owner built it without a permit (she has no proof, she is just assuming because the other additions were built in 2006 and this porch is not listed on there. I would never guess the porch is that new, it looks original to the home, which was built in 1912 and is in need of repairs). She said we have the option of A) tearing it down B) leaving it as-is (leaky roof and all!) or C) obtaining variances and drawing up plans, etc, hoping the city will give us the go-ahead. While I’m fine with and plan on making the structure more sound as well as aesthetically pleasing, I am flabbergasted that I’m being told I need a variance on an existing structure – merely because the inspector *assumes* that it was built without a permit. Any advice here is greatly appreciated, I have been nothing but compliant with the city inspectors with regards to obtaining permits and allowing them in to inspect and have done everything to the letter, but this is going into the 6 figures area due to government interference and I am so frustrated and overwhelmed. Thank you!

  27. Mary
    October 7th, 2011 at 09:50 | #28

    I also meant to add that the truth in housing report said absolutely NOTHING about the porch, it needing repairs, a variance, or anything. We did have an inspection and of course the inspector has no idea if something was built with a permit or if a structure requires a variance. I would think this would be on the truth in housing report?

  28. david
    December 18th, 2013 at 12:32 | #29

    I bought my house two years ago and specifically asked if garage conversion and laundry room had permits. I was told yes and given a permit number. Now county has to approve solar plans and are telling me that garage and laundry room don’t have permits. The permit numbers given to me were pulled but not paid for. The county says they think this was done to sell me the house. Now my solar project has been put on hold and I have to expose all electrical, insulation and footing for laundry. They said I also have to hire an engineer. I looked on my paperwork that I got when I bought the house, called the county with permit number and now they’re saying that the number I have was a qualification permit. Can a realtor or bank sell a house that has work done with no permits and do I have any other options? Thank you so much for any information.

    • December 18th, 2013 at 15:56 | #30

      You should consult a lawyer and possibly report the realtor if he or she knew the changes were not legal. If you asked about it, they have to disclose it.

  29. david
    December 19th, 2013 at 14:03 | #31

    Thank you very much for your quick response. Waiting on a call from a lawyer this week. I hate to have to get a lawyer but it’s sad what people will do for a sale. Thanks again.

  30. sant pallan
    March 17th, 2014 at 01:53 | #32

    Hi Linda. I have a problem with two homes in Santa Barbara County, CA. I am an electrical engineer and a very experienced owner/builder. I get permits for everything I build. This is easy for me as I do the blueprints myself and hire a licenced structural engineer if civil engineering calculations are required. On the first property I added a 2000 sq ft addition to the residence and also built a combined 750 sq ft work shop and office. I got all sign-off in 2003. In 2006 the property was raided by inspectors and police alleging code violations. My zoning permit was for an addition of 5 bedrooms. Inspectors claimed only 2 were legal. For an appraisal to refinance construction loans, the loan broker and appraiser suggest I change the name of 3 legal bedrooms to den, library and study. The inspectors summarily evicted three tenants occupying these rooms and ordered me to pay restitution benefits.
    The inspectors continued to pick up minor things left over from construction such as guard rail and hand rails. I was asked to do a multiple page blueprint submission on autocad and get a permit for the minor items and told to remove the closets in the bedrooms labelled den, library, and study. My cost was about $1500 to make the corrections (I did not remove the closets. My construction costs were about one half million. The permit fee requested for the minor changes was $11,000 which I refused to pay. The person at the building dept propagating this enforcement left Santa Barbara three years later and the fee was dropped to $1000 and everything signed off. However, in the intervening three years the county of santa barbara posted $120,000 in liens on each property. I have been unsuccessful in negotiating these down. I have been able to hang on to one of the two homes in question. May loose the second. These are very large valuable properties which I have worked on over the past thirty years. Any help from you and your readers would be appreciated. This is a political problem involving the zoning/building depts, County Counsel and the Board of Supervisors.

    • March 17th, 2014 at 12:03 | #33

      Perhaps you have done this already but when you find yourself in a situation like this, it really is vital to retain an attorney who understands these kinds of issues. It’s nearly impossible for non-lawyer to handle this type of situation successfully by himself.

  31. mike
    May 29th, 2014 at 11:44 | #34

    I have constructed a tree house height, play structure in my back yard. It is supported partially by the flat roof of my garage. A neighbor has called it a deck and has sicced the building inspector on me. I want to provide the playstructure to my children and did not realize a tree/club house would even be an issue for a municipality. In fact I can find no ordinances pertinent to the structures intent at all within the municiple code. How do I convince the construction board to properly interpret what i am building?

    • May 29th, 2014 at 19:38 | #35

      Building codes are meant to make structures safe, even a playstructure. What you intend is not as important as what the building code says requires a permit. I always recommend seeking a lawyer who is experienced in property law to assist you in any appeal of the building official’s order.

  32. Brenda Vermaas
    June 16th, 2014 at 18:27 | #36

    I just found out my house never was given a permit to build. The man owned both lots lived next door and woke up one day in 1972. and said I want to build a house next to me.(of which is right over a canal) We pay State,property tax etc. Since there was no permit issued where does that leave us? My neighbor will never be able to claim our property or will they?

  33. Mike Linski
    June 19th, 2014 at 23:05 | #37

    I found this site while researching where the local government received it’s power to waltz onto your property and tell you that you can not build a shed or a small workshop without getting a permit first.

    It was the ability of all homeowners in the state of Florida to submit plans drawn up by hand or computer and be approved by the municipality in order for you to proceed legally.
    I find no problem with that.

    Now, it is my attention that you can no longer do that and they have to be sealed plans drawn up by a licensed architect.

    Simple wooden building now have an extra $2,000 price tag attached along with permit fees.
    We have rights and when you look at the history even our own Presidents built their own homes and I doubt they needed permission to do so.

    The city, most likely Insurance company mandated, has now put so much restriction on homeowners that legally you can’t even change your own water heater or bath tub.

    So please forgive me if I build my shed without going through the proper channels.

  34. cathy
    August 5th, 2014 at 14:51 | #38

    My father couldn’t pay his house anymore so he let it go and has been living with me for 7months but he had built a shed in the back yard of his house and now got a citation telling him to file for permits for the shed can he just have it knocked down the shed and that’s it he doesn’t live there anymore the house has been foreclosed on

    • August 5th, 2014 at 20:14 | #39

      Many people think that if their home is in foreclosure, they have no responsibility for the property. That’s not true until after the sheriff’s sale when title is transferred to the new buyer. Until that time, the homeowner is responsible for any code problems on the property. When an unlawful structure has been erected, there are 2 ways to comply. The owner could obtain a permit for the structure and make it lawful. Or, the unlawful structure could be removed. However, the homeowner should always check to see if a demolition permit is required for the removal of the structure. You don’t want to compound the problem.

  35. george
    August 21st, 2014 at 20:09 | #40

    I am a contractor that completed a project for a customer earlier this year. this customer stated at the beginning of the project ” we don’t have to worry about the permit, I know people”. when she was later sited she for not having a permit she told the code enforcement officer that I had told her she didn’t need one. the code enforcement agent then call me and told me I was legally responsible and would be prosecuted if I did not come back on my dime and tear apart any walls needed for the inspection. Is this true? or is the homeowner ultimately responsible in this case?

    • August 22nd, 2014 at 08:31 | #41

      Unfortunately homeowners and contractors cannot count on each other to fulfill the responsibilities of the code. Anyone who builds without a permit is responsible, either because of doing the work or causing the work to be done. I often have both parties charged and let them argue in court who is going to accept the fine and correct the work. But, who has control over the work once the job is done? Certainly the homeowner has control but the contractor only has the right to go on the property if the homeowner allows it. That’s a dilemma for code officials because they need to have the person with control over the property come into compliance. I like to see contracts between parties that sets forth who is responsible for getting the permit. It won’t prevent an action by the municipality against both parties but at least it won’t turn into each blaming the other when things go bad.

  36. September 30th, 2014 at 20:56 | #42

    working with out perment in Elderberry Subdivision in richmond count at address 4738 Billie J Drive Augusta ga 30909 it NEED TO LOOK IN to

    • October 1st, 2014 at 08:15 | #43

      The best place for this information is with the local jurisdiction where the illegal work is taking place.

  37. Art
    October 9th, 2014 at 19:35 | #44

    I had a friend inform me that, someone reported him about an garage on the property that is being used for living space and ask me if I knew if he would have too convert back to a garage or can he find an attorney to see if it can be saved his home is in Santa Barbara California can you help in this area thank you

    • October 9th, 2014 at 21:42 | #45

      It’s unlikely the local jurisdiction will let him use it for living space unless he converts it back and then files the necessary paperwork to use it. If it is in a single family zoning area, it’s unlikely he’d get permission. I cover this issue, ignoring the zoning code, in my book, The Building Process Simplified.

  38. COL Mike
    October 20th, 2014 at 21:32 | #46

    I purchased a 2nd house in Florida from the FEDERAL NATIONAL MORTGAGE ASSOCIATION in Nov 2012. According to the county tax records, the property includes a house built in 1996; an in ground pool installed in 1996; and a semi-permanent wooden storage shed (approx 64 sq/ft) built in 2004. Now it is Oct 2014 and I just received a notice of code violation for building a shed without a permit. My question is, if the storage structure shows up in the tax records, won’t there have had to been a permit to get it registered?
    This county does have an electronic online search utility for permits, but 3 months of 2004 are missing. So it will require flying down to Florida to research this issue in person.

    • October 21st, 2014 at 20:25 | #47

      I’m not sure about Florida but usually the assessor finds out about it because a copy of a permit is forwarded to that office. You might want to check aerial photographs that many counties take every few years. They might show how long the shed has been there. You would also want to check the statute of limitations to see if that has run out. If the shed doesn’t meet the building code, you still would have problems though. It might be worthwhile to hire local counsel so you don’t have to go to the expense of flying down there.

  39. November 4th, 2014 at 00:44 | #48

    @Brenda Vermaas
    I bought a home 38 years ago and tried to sell it this year and found out the house and sewer never was permitted when built in 1972. the builder is dead now. is there a statue of limitations? I have already replaced the sewer system and had the electrical permitted and the well permitted all have passed. now they want the house blue printed this is something I can not afford is there any thing we can do? state of washington

    • November 5th, 2014 at 08:07 | #49

      This is an unfortunate situation and you need to see an attorney to see if there is any recourse against the builder’s estate since you just discovered the problem. Statutes of limitation vary from state to state and are based on the type of cause of action. A local attorney can advise you on this. I would contact your local bar association to see if they have a referral service. It sounds like your local jurisdiction is trying to work with you. You might also contact an architectural program at a local college to see if someone might take on drawing the blueprints as a project to defray the cost. It sounds like it might be a great project for a student to work on under the supervision of a licensed architect.

  40. Anne Kelly
    November 20th, 2014 at 19:27 | #50

    I had a deck built over an existing patio 12 years ago. I told the builder to get whatever permits I needed. That apparently was not done. Three years ago I sold the house. Recently I was contacted by the people who bought my house. They want me to provide them paperwork about when the deck was built so they can argue that the statute of limitations is met and that they shouldn’t need to get rid of the deck. Am I opening myself up to liability if I send them paperwork about when the deck was built?

    • November 20th, 2014 at 19:56 | #51

      Unfortunately I can’t give legal advice in this forum. When I teach classes about the statute of limitations and working without a permit, I tell students that while the statute may have run on the working without a permit issue, if the structure wasn’t built to code, the statute of limitation never runs. Or, if the structure required an occupancy permit or a certificate of completion, every day is a new offense. It’s an issue I deal with in my book, The Building Process Simplified, where I try to impress on people the importance of getting all necessary permits.

  41. Sam Nelson
    November 23rd, 2014 at 22:14 | #52

    Earlier this year I purchased a home. Within a week of purchasing the home I hired an tree service company to come remove several trees from the property. At the rear of the property there was a wooden privacy fence that a significant amount of brush growing over into the backyard in addition to several dead trees that had fallen on and through the fence. I asked the tree company if they could cut back the brush and remove the fallen trees. The company said they could not only cut the brush back but could remove the fence and clear the brush behind the fence to prevent a regrowth problem. Given that I owned about 40 feet beyond the fence I told them to clear about 20′ beyond the fence and they did. A neighbor called code enforcement and we were given a citation for clearing land without a permit. I have a hearing with a special magistrate next month. Though I have several questions (such as the tree company being responsible for pulling the permit etc…) my main question is whether or not hiring an attorney is necessary. I am sure that having an attorney would be optimal – but it is my impression from speaking with the county enforcement that this is a pretty standard procedure and isn’t that serious. Can you provide some insight on to exactly what happens in a special magistrate hearing? Thank you.

    • November 24th, 2014 at 13:53 | #53

      I cannot give advice on out of state cases but you could always ask to speak with the prosecutor and get a continuance if you cannot work something out regarding any fines. When I prosecute I am always happy to conference cases.

  42. Ed Stewart
    November 29th, 2014 at 18:30 | #54

    Hello everyone, I have read your complaints, and like the attorney has stated, “Laws are different in every state.”
    I am a State Certified Building Contractor. I write contacts all the time. Basically in the State of Florida, it all comes down to the owner—-he is to verify all procedures. If your contract with your contractor states the he will abide to all laws, the he is responsible, if it does not, and contract is for removal, adjustment, ect….without a permit—-then you mas owner are responsible—–MAKE SURE YOUR CONTRACTOR IN HIS CONTRACTS SPECIFY EVERYTHING DONE WILL BE ACCORDING TO THE LAWS OF YOUR STATE, COUNTY, AND OR LOCAL HOA., otherwise, you may be held responsible.
    Yes –it’ a terrible world when we think we hire professionals at a moderate price to find out it will be more than expected.

  43. ajit
    December 11th, 2014 at 19:43 | #55

    Hi. So my parents remolded the house in 1989 my dad did the work and had the inspectors come and sign off. My husband and I took over ownership of the house in 2007 through a quick claim. now we are trying to put in solar and went to pull permit but were told that none of the final inspections back in 1989 happened. My parents swear that it was done because they remember a guy pulling tags of the walls. Who knows where the paper work from 20+ years ago went. what should our next steps be? Is there anything research that we could do that would indicate if the final inspection was done? We also found this out after we realized the county office had assigned the incorrect parcel code to us. we are in California.

    • December 15th, 2014 at 21:14 | #56

      Local governments are supposed to maintain records but given the technology changes and things like floods, fire, etc. over the years, it may be hard to find. In my state, Illinois, after there is a final inspection, a notice is sent to the assessor’s office who then raises the value of the property because of the increased value. The tax bill then increases. If there is a similar process in your state, it might be worthwhile to check out the file at the tax collector/assessor’s office to see if there was an increase for the years involved. If the work was done properly for the code in effect at the time, it might be as simple as having a final inspection if you can’t get the city to admit it lost the paperwork.

  44. jason anderson
    January 20th, 2015 at 12:31 | #57

    I have been dealing with county code enforcement dealing with a developer who has gone in and widen a home owners association road this is on agriculture land and is leading to many homes. County said it looks OK to them but they have widen and even left horizontal walls which are falling into road now and when it rains it will cause erosion and sediment to run into creek system which is our drinking water. I have given code enforcement there own rules out of county code book and they say it looks good to them so keep my month shut. Where do I go cause it seams like county is being bought off by this developer and are ignoring there own codes and regs,

    • January 20th, 2015 at 18:13 | #58

      That is a tough situation. Does your state have any type of storm water management law? Counties often are in charge of carrying out the law but if they are negligent in doing so, you might want to see if the state has an agency that gets involved, like a state EPA. I don’t know if the federal government would get involved on this type of issue or what your laws are that might allow a suit by a private citizen over contaminated water.

  45. Heather Davis
    February 4th, 2015 at 16:48 | #59

    Hello, We built a room addition 24 years ago, it is permitted and has a final. The county assessors office notified me that they never recorded it and are now going to back tax me four years and that I should be lucky that is all. I live in San Bernardino Cali. Can you offer me any advise?

    • February 9th, 2015 at 19:08 | #60

      I wish I could but I don’t practice law in California. I suggest you seek the services of a lawyer who practices property tax appeal law.

  46. HAN Nguyen
    February 14th, 2015 at 05:20 | #61

    I had build a sunroom without permit in back of a single house in Philadelphia PA,because contracter said if neighbor not complain then don”t need one,now that I read in your Blog ,I want a permit for it,what should I do ?I want it be legally.Thank you for your help.Han

    • February 14th, 2015 at 12:08 | #62

      I can’t give legal advice but if I had done the same thing, the first thing I would do if it were my home is to have an independent inspector check it out to see if it meets the building code. If it does, then I would consider going to the building department to apply for a permit. However, you will probably be charged at least double the fee. The contractor was wrong to give you that kind of advice which is why you need to find out if he built it correctly. If it doesn’t meet the building code, I would want to find out how much it would cost to fix it or if it would need to be demolished. You might want to speak with a real estate lawyer in your area to find out the consequences of violating your local law.

  47. February 16th, 2015 at 12:01 | #63

    Several years ago I had a barn/Mother in law apt built on my property. it was buit where a mobile home used to be for my Step father who who had a life estate. He has since died and the mobile home is gone. The bulider talked me into not getting permits . He hooked the septic to the tank that was for the old mobile home, ran the electric from my house underground and connected the water from the exisiting well on the property. I want to get this resolved with the county and will do what I can to get this fixed. I know it was a big mistake. What can I do to get this resloved?? Where should I start?? Should I get with a real estate attorney??

    • February 16th, 2015 at 18:47 | #64

      This sounds very complicated and you really should get an attorney who is comfortable with municipal work and real estate. Sometimes the cost of making things right are more than the cost of demolition so you need expert advice in this area.

  48. February 17th, 2015 at 02:34 | #65

    is there a building permit called as built building permit? I have a house that was built40 years ago by someone else with out permits I have been trying to get it permitted but every thing I do for the building and planning seems to be wrong and they make us do something else. we had the house blue printed and they denied it because it was missing the size of the headers and the footings of a beam so it was denied and has to be totally redone they will not excepted just fixing the original one so I have to pay the acetic to do it again I have already paid 2600 for the first one. is there any help out there for us desperate!! Washington state

    • February 17th, 2015 at 20:00 | #66

      I have never heard of an as built building permit, just an “as built” survey. If you are trying to do this without an attorney, that may be a mistake. While attorneys cost money, they often facilitate a resolution of the problem by entering into an agreement with the municipality that you might not reach on your own. When people have problems with their plans being rejected, it is usually because the person they hired didn’t do a thorough enough job or lack the expertise. If the person is competent, sometimes a meeting between your expert and the building official can resolve any differences.

  49. Pat
    March 20th, 2015 at 21:45 | #67

    I bought a house knowing it had an illegal addition. The addition was built to code. I went to pull a permit from the City of Glendale, CA for a demolition refurb and was told the usual fee of $5000 was doubled to $10,000 because of the addition. I asked why and the clerk said it was in the California Statutes. Asking which one, they said they didn’t have to tell me and to look it up. Is this for real?

  50. Stephanie Aguillard
    March 30th, 2015 at 06:31 | #68

    Please advise me immediately. I hired a licensed contractor to install a metal roof. We discussed r panel 26 gauge metal. Someone familiar with this roofing happened to come by yesterday in the midst of this project and told me that the metal Is not r panel and looks like very cheap metal. He also showed me many serious mistakes being made. The one of most concern is he cut all my sewer pipes and layed metal over them and I had numerous. Please advise me quickly as i don’t want my family in danger.

    • March 30th, 2015 at 14:30 | #69

      I cannot give you legal advice but you should speak to an attorney as soon as you can. Do you need a permit in your jurisdiction for this kind of work? If so, has the local jurisdiction done an inspection of the work? Have you spoken to the contractor? Your local bar association can usually give you a referral for attorneys who get involved in these kinds of matters.

  51. Gina
    April 22nd, 2015 at 23:24 | #70

    Where can I find information regarding permits and use of garage as a business in California?

    • April 23rd, 2015 at 10:08 | #71

      Contact the local jurisdiction, whether it is a city or county. They should be able to answer your questions. Usually a person cannot use a garage for a business because it may be a violation of the zoning code.

  52. ronda gade
    April 26th, 2015 at 07:39 | #72

    my neighbor has a full bar that’s been there for many years just recently they’ve cut windows and I’m making it into an apartment no permit for ever pulled and no inspection was ever done is this is illegal because when I put new windows in my home I had to pull permits and have them inspected

    • April 26th, 2015 at 09:40 | #73

      A lot depends on what your zoning laws are regarding converting inhabitable space to habitable space. Most codes do not require a permit to replace windows but if there is anything involving the structure, then the codes require a permit. Contact your local jurisdiction to find out the answer.

  53. Madeline Cohn
    May 27th, 2015 at 19:57 | #74

    How can I determine whether a roofer has a license or is building to code or not? I ask because these people are working on my mother’s roof and are destroying her yard, have made it impossible for her to exit from or use her backyard, etc….and I don’ think they are real roofers. My suspicion is that the maintenance guy for her cottage has hired some random guys to cut down on costs and pocket the money. I need advice! Thanks!

  54. Roland Brandt
    May 28th, 2015 at 07:08 | #75

    I hold an unrestricted Construction Supervisors license in Massachusetts and am employed by a residential roof top solar company licensing the office (building permits). This company uses an out of state engineer with a civil engineering stamp, who seems to pass 99% of structures. Recently I have to review every account structurally because it has come to my attention that some of the roofs are questionable structurally, and actually many of the accounts I send back for his re review end up needing some sort of structural upgrade. Bottom line; Am I liable as the permit signer if one of these structures fails?

  55. June 4th, 2015 at 14:48 | #76

    We always felt our neighbors were sitting perched up on our driveway when they were out on their deck. When we went to get a permit to build a privacy fence, we ended up purchasing a township code book. After reviewing the book, we discovered that our neighbor’s deck is 6 feet too close to the property line. (He built it 9 feet from the property line, it needs to be 15 feet from the line) We found out that he did not obtain a permit to build.this deck (nor did he obtain a permit for any other structures he built.on the property). When we contacted the township we were told that we are “nitpicking” and that it has been 30 days and they are not going to pursue it. The deck was built.several years ago, he is a contractor and we figured he knew what he was doing and got the necessary permits (ignorance on our part). I assume he thought he was “safe” because he thought the code.was 10 feet, not 15 feet. Do we have a case to contact a lawyer to have him bring the deck up to code (since there was never a permit) or is it too late?

    • June 7th, 2015 at 13:21 | #77

      Each state has its own laws that deal with these types of issues. It is worthwhile to at least speak with an attorney who can advise you on whether you have any rights as a neighbor. The answer from the township is not satisfactory and I would want to speak to someone who supervises the person that told you that. When people build without permits, these omissions are often discovered after the work took place. But, if he has violated the setback, that may be an ongoing zoning issue.

  56. Madlen
    June 7th, 2015 at 07:03 | #78

    I applied for a perm to add an extra 17 feet to my deck,I was told it would also require a building permit. I don’t mind paying the $139 fee for that permit after the other one cost me $35 but the building permit requires a very in depth drawing of the deck that needs to be approved before the permit can be issued. It will cost me around $500 to buy the materials but it would cost around $1500 to get the drawing done.

    • June 7th, 2015 at 13:26 | #79

      In depth drawings are required to make sure that the deck will be safe. There are far too many instances of decks being overloaded during a party and then collapsing. While it is expensive to get drawings, in the long run, safety is important and it helps the owner avoid liability if it is done correctly. I have seen too many decks built without permits that create load issues, tripping hazards or create danger for children who may fall through the railings.

  57. June 7th, 2015 at 14:10 | #80

    If you suspect someone is working without a permit and the person is supposed to have a license, you can usually look that information up on the State’s website with the agency that gives out licenses. Also, some state’s require the person, such as a roofer, to have their license number on the side of his truck. What most people don’t realize is that it is the owner’s responsibility to check out the credentials of the worker. It’s harder when it is a condominium situation since the association hires the workers. Too often, the association tries to save money by using people who are not qualified and not licensed. I have seen this in my practice where associations use handymen as plumbers or electrical contractors totally in violation of the law.

  58. Madlen
    June 8th, 2015 at 01:24 | #81

    Thank you

  59. Lissa
    June 9th, 2015 at 10:24 | #82

    My friend bought a property 13-14 years ago, two flat with a porch in the back for the 1st floor, and stairs and porch for the second floor. City of Chicago code is I think boards need to be 4 x 4, and these are 4 x 6. When she purchased the property, she assumed no porch could be built without a permit, and that the person she bought from obtained a permit to build it. Today, because of all the porch collapses, they are making her replace the porch, not just repair, and bring it up to today’s code. Grandfathering doesn’t apply. And the fact it was the previous owner, the comment was “It’s your headache now.” Can she go after the previous owner to try and recoup some or all of her losses to replace the porch to code? Or has the statute of limitations run up?

    • June 9th, 2015 at 11:01 | #83

      She should definitely speak to a real estate attorney who does litigation. If the seller knew about the problem and the buyer asked about any issues when she purchased it and it wasn’t disclosed, there may be a possible cause of action to rescind the sale. You have pointed out an important issue, code violations are not “grandfathered in”. That term usually refers to zoning matters. If she could find out who actually built without a permit, she could determine when it was built and whether that falls within the statute of limitations and whether she has a cause of action against the builder. Neighbors might also remember when it was constructed. I would never assume something was built with a permit, especially a porch or deck. People try to save money and taxes by not getting a permit. My book, The Building Process Simplified, discusses what buyers ought to be aware of when they purchase property.

  60. Donald
    June 12th, 2015 at 13:18 | #84

    I have a 1972 single wide mobile home that is falling apart. I was given a 1989 double wide mobile home. I just want to replace what is existing. What are the loop holes to get around the wind zone III requirements… can I just anchor the double wide to a wind zone III and get away with it. I own the land… I pay my taxes. Any legal ways of doing this PLEASE let me know….

    • August 14th, 2015 at 10:07 | #85

      You shouldn’t do anything without speaking with an attorney. If you can’t afford one, you should contact Legal Aid in your county.

  61. Donald
    June 12th, 2015 at 13:20 | #86

    also my only income is disability….

  62. Ken Darrel
    June 26th, 2015 at 01:22 | #87

    My brother just purchased a lot in San Bernardino county that had an existing shed type of building on it (10 x 12) and he has done some improvements such as installing a nice front door (residential style). Can he use this building to sleep in while he is working on improving the property and building a cabin?

    • August 14th, 2015 at 09:55 | #88

      Converting a non habitable space to habitable space cannot be done without a permit and it also probably violates your local zoning code. I wouldn’t do anything without speaking with an attorney versed in your local real estate law.

  63. Brian
    July 13th, 2015 at 14:36 | #89


    I just had a in ground pool built at my home and I am afraid that the contractor did not pull the required permit for the job. It is unincorporated Harris county Texas. I have looked up and there are no codes depicting where exactly you have to put it but the codes for the county require a permit. What do I need to do? I am worried that I will have to pay fines or have to do something to the pool. Can you let me know what I should do?

    • August 14th, 2015 at 09:50 | #90

      I would contact the county and find out how to make this right, otherwise you would might have to disclose it someday if you sell the property or risk getting caught. Many counties double the amount of the fee for the permit but don’t impose a fine. The sooner you resolve it, the better. Most building code departments just want to get the problem cleared up and should help you do this. However, this is a good example not to rely on contractors to pull permits. If there is no permit posted when the job is going on, that’s a red flag that none was pulled. The permit must be posted during the time the work is performed. While most contractors do what is required, you can’t count on it. Trust but verify!

  64. israel
    July 28th, 2015 at 08:52 | #91

    I just found out that the architecht that drew my permits might be losing his license in a few weeks. I am not sure why . I am not finished my job yet . Where does that leave me ? I live in NY. Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thx

    • August 14th, 2015 at 09:46 | #92

      Unfortunately, I am not qualified to practice law in New York. Speaking generally, work done when someone has a license doesn’t take away the validity of that work done if they lose their license. If your state requires you to have an architect throughout the building process, you would have to get a new one. Perhaps your architect is going to turn over his practice to someone else who would be available to you.

  65. Candies Barbie
    August 14th, 2015 at 08:44 | #93

    We bought a house 4 years ago and the deck has seriously started deteriorating with all the rain the last two years. We wanted to have it repaired only to discover through an inspection it was not built to code, never issued a permit or inspected and needed to be torn off. We did have a home inspection, what recourse do we have if any against realtor, seller and inspector?

    • August 14th, 2015 at 09:44 | #94

      I don’t know what your local laws are so you should get a referral from your local bar association for an attorney specializing in real estate litigation. The disclosure laws vary from state to state. Have the neighbors said when the deck was built? If it was the sellers, that might be important. If they were unaware of the issue, you might not be successful. There might be aerial photographs available at the county that show when the deck first appeared. Home inspectors usually have you sign a waiver so they can’t be sued. The realtor probably was unaware about this kind of issue. The big problem is now it is your problem and responsibility to make it right, unfortunately. This is a good example of why buyers need to research the property before they buy. I cover this in my book, The Building Process Simplified. Anyone can ask to see the file on a home at the local jurisdiction to see what permits were obtained over the years (or which ones were not).

  66. August 14th, 2015 at 09:28 | #95

    In Nj does a contractor need a license to build a new commercial structure? We reside across from a bar which knocked a structure down(was used as storage}, poured a new slab and from the ground up built a new bar with ventilation, taps etc. No site plan, zoning application, permits etc were issued for this new structure. This was all done by an owner claiming to be an unlicensed contractor. We have been fighting this since March 2014. Any comments suggestions.

    • August 14th, 2015 at 09:39 | #96

      I don’t know what the rules for New Jersey are so you need to contact a local attorney. What does the city say? Normally even an owner needs to obtain permits for an addition whether or not they are doing the work themselves. And, the rules are different for working on one’s residence compared to commercial structures. I would also contact the office of the State Fire Marshal. Sometimes when you can’t get results at the local level, going to the State regarding potential building or fire code issues might work. Any place of where the public gathers is regulated by the State Fire Code. There are all kinds of issues regarding sprinklers, ADA compliance, fire alarms, etc.

  67. August 17th, 2015 at 12:51 | #97

    The township has closed them last year and this year. They refused to close and are still operating. At the planning board hearing they finally admitted to having no permits for the work done and continuing to be done. A long list of waivers and variances including use were listed by the town’s engineer and planner. we have used an attorney but have blown through a lot of money. Quite frankly our feeling this is something the township should be handling not our personal pockets. We were told an injunction is in order but will be quite costly. Thank you for your response.

  68. Sydney
    August 19th, 2015 at 21:36 | #98

    my dad bought a house in highland, ca that went through a special inspection recently, one issue that was brought up was a porch that was converted into a room, the inspector said to submit copy of permit or to change it back into porch. Tax assessors building record show that porch was converted into room and added as room in 60’s. We showed this to city code enforcement and they said it was not enough, that we needed to show permit or change it back to porch. We requested any permits with county in San Bernardino and they gave us two from 1980’s that were not relevant, and said they were only able to provide us with permits from 1977 onward, and to supply them with names of previous owners ( I do not know why this is) in order to get any permits from year house was built to 1977. What are our options?

  69. September 3rd, 2015 at 23:24 | #99

    My husband built a Porch on the back of our mobile around 1990. It was a roof and a deck and he did not use treated lumber. I have found that the porch was not permitted nor the deck. I have to rebuild the deck and I want a permit. The contractors tell me that the porch will also be in jeopardy if I get a permit. I want this legal but I cannot afford to rebuild everything. The Porch and deck was built free standing and he had a carpenter help him and only shingles hold it on to the house. How can I go about this? I will try to bring Porch up to code in order not to have it torn down and get it all permitted so that it is all legal.

  70. September 3rd, 2015 at 23:27 | #100

    I forgot to say my Husband has passed away so I am unable to ask him questions.

  71. Mary Barnett
    September 11th, 2015 at 12:40 | #101

    I recently hired a company called Automatic Rain, owned by Gary Reed in Memphis TN to do the irrigation work for my newly installed landscape.
    He is very difficult to deal with and he is not particularly knowledgeable about his business. Also, he did not get a permit to do the work and he did not follow code . It is a requirement to install a backflow preventer as part of the irrigation process and he did not ……I found this out quite by accident over two months after the work was completed. Not having a backflow preventer on your irrigation system can cause serious health issues and even death. Your water can be contaminated with fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, animal waste and who knows what else ! I had my water tested and it is positive for contaminants !
    I think Gary Reed should have his license revoked and not be allowed to do irrigation work anywhere for anyone, ever again.
    What advice do you have? Who do I turn to for help?

  72. tala
    September 13th, 2015 at 19:16 | #102

    Hi. What are the consequences of not removing a non-permitted garage modification? Fees, penalties, how far can the City push the homeowner???????????????

  73. Christine
    September 14th, 2015 at 13:39 | #103

    We live in NJ and a few years ago the neighbor built a deck right up to our fence. There is a rule that it needs to be set back 3 or 5 feet. Since it was already built I didn’t say anything. Now they are putting a roof on it and trying to place drain pipes on my side of the fence. They have a permit to “build a roof on an existing structure” but the original existing structure (the deck) never had a permit or variance. I plan to file a complaint but would like to know your take on this. Thanks

  74. Jerome
    September 20th, 2015 at 04:32 | #104

    before my neighbor built his fence I told him it was on my property but due to medication the situation dragged on over a year . a portion of his fence is on my property I’m trying not to get ugly , what can I do ?

    • October 1st, 2015 at 18:37 | #105

      You might want to consider hiring a lawyer to send him a letter once you have obtained a survey showing where the property lines are. You should not ignore this as there are consequences when someone uses your land as their own.

  75. Marilyn
    October 1st, 2015 at 14:27 | #106

    Hi. I recently got into a discussion with a survivalist who claims to have built over 80 structures without ever pulling a permit. He is currently finishing up a very large home for his son on his property. He claims that there are no LAWS saying he has to comply with building codes, that codes are just suggestions and if one doesn’t pull a permit, which he considers a contract, then the city, county, state have no right to enforce any of the codes. I have been looking for some evidence that this is not the case but can’t put my finger on anything definitive. This man also claims that he threatens anyone who does try to enforce any building codes with retaliatory action against the inspector’s family as they are attempting to harm his family. He claims that the law is on his side. Can you point me to the law, both federal and local (Washington state, in this example but I’m also interested in Illinois law). Thanks for any assistance you might give.

  76. Ted
    November 23rd, 2015 at 09:51 | #108

    How can you be forced to follow building codes that have absolutely nothing to do with safety? Things like what type of windows, slope of roof, setback requirements. Also on a legal perspective here in Michigan it states right on the permit that the inspection or inspector are not liable for defective work, and they assume no responsibility to insure safety. They cannot have it both ways, they ( inspections) either have authority to perform inspections and require permits and accept responsibility, or they have no authority.if they are not liable for the work then what is the point of the whole system.

  77. Way
    November 27th, 2015 at 17:20 | #109

    Hello, such an informative site, thanks! We recently received a penalty order for a heater, air conditioner and kitchen in our detached garage, that was already there when we purchased our home in 2008! What are our rights as new owners? The penalty is for not getting permits. We bought the property from in-laws and nothing ever brought up during settlement. $2000 penalty seems hefty for work done before we bought property!

  78. December 20th, 2015 at 10:02 | #110

    Hello, I live in Naples Florida and the land I live on was once owned by my grandparents. It has since been decvided amongst my mother and her siblings. All of the homes here were built in the early to mid 60’s Apparently when the properties were decided a property line runs right through the middle of the house we live in today. According to the county it is a violation for our home to be on two different properties and the property(whom is owned by my cousins) can not sale or put it up for sale. It has to be removed.
    The county also says that the house I live in is the only structure in this area that does not have a building remit on file and for that reason we must obtain a demolition permit and demolish or tear down the entire house or completely remodel to bring everything up to today’s code.
    My questions are: Would our home be grandfathered in being that it was built in the 60’s and is still being lived in today?
    If so, Do we have to remove the part of the house that is on the other property being that it was built there before the property was ever decided?

  79. December 21st, 2015 at 23:01 | #111

    I live in a very small town ,1500 people, in Texas. Our little town has went on a hunt for substandard properties. We really had no code until Texas passed the ICC code statewide. This house was built in 1930s, added on several times.Yes it needed work This was a style were they used 1×12 as walls. It is called a sanity home. I was bring the wall and floor above standard. We have a city inspector, then we have a private IBC code inspector. The IBC inspector came in said the roof trusses was not up to code, the single wall construction he had never seen,it was out of code. Yes I took out a building permit. Spent three weeks working on it , a grand on wood. Then I read code, the section on existing structures. Code say that I can rebuild it with like construction. He basically told me he was the code.He would send the city code officer his report that afternoon. That has been a week now. I was told to do a permit search on it to find out when the additions was added.% working days and still no action by the city. Was told the code officer would talk to me. When I ask about the permit search, all the employees were like deer in headlights. One even said she did not know if they kept permit records, or where they be.
    There allowing the property owner beside change his house into a storage unit, no water or electricity. required or inspection slap a coat off paint on it and he good. This is also a town where the previous inspectors would tell just do work and don’t worry about a permit. And yes they selectively enforce the code. There a old brick hotel down town that has floor caving in on it. The city has owned it twice and sold it twice. the roof finally got repaired after 15 years, It has not been open since the 1970s. I ask him about it, he said, in his words” We just got the roof repaired”, it belong to a development company here. The company is private and next to impossible to find out who the share holder are. I did find one of the owners, a bank president.
    To anyone out there thinking of doing any kind of building, get a lawyer every plan you submit signed of by a structural engineer. Make the city sign a contract with you that allows you build.

  80. jaxgator
    January 12th, 2016 at 10:59 | #112

    Bought a home in Florida city 5 months ago, which sold as having a detached garage apartment. Found out this week that although the original garage was permitted, the dwelling unit conversion was not, and additionally, the dwelling unit in in violation of the building zoning.

    As the survey attached to the title insurance clearly states “garage apartment”, can they be held liable for the zoning violation? Neighbors upset with our renting of the apartment have started calling enforcement on us. We would lose $800 – $1,000 per month.

    I know I can file for a zoning deviation, and get a permit for the existing structure, but that takes $$ I currently don’t have.

    Also, most real estate attorneys I have called have refused to hear my case. Is a “real estate” attorney not the correct place to go? I have need of both potential litigation over the matter, and the process of rezoning.

    • January 25th, 2016 at 19:35 | #113

      I would look for a “land use” attorney. You should also look for someone who does contract civil litigation to see if you have a cause of action against the previous owner given the way it was advertised. Too often these conversions only come to light when an innocent purchaser buys the property. I’ve covered this issue in my book, The Building Process Simplified.

  81. David Miller
    January 25th, 2016 at 23:26 | #114

    Dear Linda, someone who I thought was suppose to be really religious deceived me when we went in on a Joint Family Real Estate Venture. The halfway legal Granny House was built by the leader of our former church, he felt “Satan’s laws don’t apply to me because God is my Master!” This super religious couple who spend more time judging everyone else’s sins want me to buy their illegal granny unit.

    If I was to go to the County Code enforcers this couple built a house close to 2,000 sq-ft versus a legal 1200 maximum size would can they make them tear out all the excess size? The extra size is hurting me, I pay the correct property taxes and follow the law even if it’s “Satan’s Laws” as they claim. It make’s me mad I found out they did this after the appraiser said their house was not a granny-house but a regular home. There is no way the County will allow them to split this lot because its been split too many times. They know there are back taxes and have tried to put drywall over some of their illegal space. What would you do if someone offered you to buy out a granny house that was “overbuilt”, owed building fees, “evaded property taxes by lying about the true cost and value”? Someone is going to catch this once we put it up for sale, I don’t want anyone to think I was involved in their corruption.

    • January 26th, 2016 at 13:33 | #115

      You need a lawyer who has some expertise in civil litigation for consumer fraud and/or breach of contract. Contact your local bar association.

  82. carol glassel
    March 25th, 2016 at 12:44 | #116

    We acquired a condo that we had been renting from my mother in February 2014. During our rental time there was much talk about basement bedrooms and we observed and had a tour of a unit adding habitable space to their basement in the fall of 2013. When we went to add habitable space to our basement, 40% of available area, we were refused the legally required egress window by the condo association. The city building inspectors told us we did need one. Not being scofflaws, we sold the condo but did report the illegal construction to the city. The city refused to take any action on the existing illegal construction in the condo basements and told me partially finished basements do not require egress windows. Do I have any grounds to sue the city or condo association? I had to pay capital gains taxes on the condo and other selling costs so I am out money and both my husband and I have had extreme emotional distress over the apparent cronyism.

    • March 29th, 2016 at 21:22 | #117

      I cannot give legal advice. You should contact your local bar association for a referral for someone who does real estate litigation.

  83. Brandon
    April 4th, 2016 at 18:03 | #118

    A friend of mine owns some commercial real estate in Portland, OR. They hired a contractor to do several tenant improvement projects. It has just come to light that the contractor may have not obtained permits for the work over the last couple years on several of the units. There was nothing structural done, just adding some non-structural partition walls and plumbing, electrical, mechanical modifications. Does anyone have experience with getting commercial retroactive permits? Are there heavy fines involved? We are trying to figure out what they are up against and the best way to proceed.

    • April 4th, 2016 at 20:10 | #119

      Many jurisdictions charge double the normal fee for permits that were not obtained in a timely manner. The local building code may answer your question. I would tell your friend to hire an attorney to check and see if the contract with the contractor reveals who should have obtained the permit. When the contractor is responsible, the cost is usually built into the contract. The attorney could approach the local jurisdiction to see if he or she could work out some type of agreement to make the improvements legal.

  84. Logan
    June 30th, 2016 at 16:43 | #120

    A little over two years ago I called the city (Reno, Nevada) and asked them what the rules were for building a treehouse/playhouse. They informed me that as long as it was under 120 square feet and didn’t have plumbing and electricity that I did not need a permit at all. I told them I don’t have any large trees and wanted to build the playhouse on a large fake tree stump. They said again that all that matters is that it’s less than 120sf. Well, I built the most amazing and beautiful treehouse, it’s about 110sf and it resides on an awesome “tree stump” with a door in it that leads to a staircase up to the house. The other day I got a “Notice of violation” that my “accessory structure” violates code because it is more than 12 feet tall. (It’s about 15 feet tall). While the city has not called me back for three days the notice says that I have to “remove/redesign/remodel” it. None of those are options at this point! What do I do?!? I’m absolutely terrified that they will somehow force me to tear it down. Is there any way to get a variance or exemption for such things since it’s not a safety concern? Would having my neighbors sign something saying they are okay with it help me? In a couple years the trees all around it are going to be taller than it is!

    • July 14th, 2016 at 20:28 | #121

      There are very formal procedures to go through to get a variance. Variances usually are granted under the zoning ordinance, not the building code depending what state is involved. It’s better to work with the inspector to see how a structure can be made legal if it violates the code.

  85. Sheila
    July 14th, 2016 at 18:03 | #122

    I built a playhouse for my son that is 66 sqft, and code enforcement saw me bldg. It and opened a case on me. The HOA approved the playhouse and gave us there permit, but once code enforcement got involved the bldg. Dept is telling me I have to have 2 drawings stamped by an engineer and I will have to pull a permit. I looked in the codes for polk county florida and it does not mention a playhouse anywhwre. Its not exempt and nor does it mention that it needs a permit. It doesnt mention a playhouse at all. So what will happen to me if I don’t pull a permit ? Will they drop the case ? Bevause theres no laws or codes that I am breaking ?

    • July 14th, 2016 at 20:25 | #123

      I can’t give legal advice so you might want to seek help in Florida if you want to fight this. Generally, whenever someone is trying to find out of he or she needs a permit, the person should look at the definition of structure in the building code. If it meets the definition of structure and is not in the exemption section, the person need a permit. When a permit is necessary and a person violates the building code, a fine can be imposed for every day it remains. I cover this common problem in my book, The Building Process Simplified by Cengage.

  86. Hamid
    July 31st, 2016 at 13:44 | #124

    My garage roof was falling down. I contacted a license contractor to fix my garage. He got $1700 in advance. He stated that I do not need a building permit as he is only replacing the roof and the permit I had to replace my house will cover it. i asked him to double-check with city to be sure. He told me that I should not worry about anything and he will take care of everything. His name is David Murphee and he is licensed in California. DO NOT HIRE HIM FOR ANYTHING. After he broke the contact I checked him out. He has 19+ judgments against him. I have a court date for damage he caused me.

    The contractor also removed the sidings of the house. He left the project after he removed the roof and the sidings.

    After 8 months I ordered new material to put the sidings and the roof myself. I assumed that the permit I have for the main house. I had no money left to hire a new contractor to do the work.

    I almost finished the job on my own and a few homeless people looking for work. Two days ago my neighbor, an African American lady living with his son and granddaughter called the city building code enforcement agency. In the city a guy named Darius told me that I need a complete building permit for the new garage from scratch, because the building is not safe,

    I told him I was doubled all the studs and use 2×6 Joist and rafters to make the garage as safe as possible. I was on the roof to put the singles and the garage is safer even that the main house that is build 110 years ago. I told him send somebody to check if the the garage is not safe and I am ready to retrofit it even for earthquake. He said he wants paperwork for a new building permit otherwise he will send me bigger and bigger fines until I comply. To comply to the new codes I have to make a new foundation and destroy a garage that so far has cost me $10,000+. I guess a similar structure with architect, engineering etc will cost me 20,000.

    I refuse to apply for new building permit. Everybody I talk to tell me that the city cannot do much and I win the case if I go to court. I told city I can apply for earthquake retrofit, siding permit, roofing permit, electrical permit for the garage, but they refuse to give me those permits.

    The garage is almost done. it needs a garage door and electrical to function. I can even skip the electrical if it give me hassle when they come to inspect electrical system inside the house.

    My question is how often they can fine me? What else can they do?

    I am living in downtown with all the homes around me are falling apart. My house is in pretty good shape, as I changed the roof and made Stucco outside all with permits. I am going to upgrade electrical system with a new main panel and two sub-panels in basement, also with permit. I changed all the windows as well and the city told me that I do not need permit as long as I use the same size windows. The water system was upgraded before and it seems to be good quality copper maximum 3-4 years old.

    I was going to work on landscaping and make the house nice from the curb when the nosy neighbor called the city. What a pity, she is renting, have no backyard. My house is at least 3 times bigger. I guess she could not see so much is done with the neighbor’s house. What a pity that people are jealous even when they live in downtown in worse possible neighborhood.

  87. August 18th, 2016 at 16:21 | #125

    what is the penalty for construction w/o a permit?

    • August 18th, 2016 at 19:51 | #126

      The penalty varies with the jurisdiction. For the towns I prosecuted for, the maximum fine was $750 per day. This can end up being a huge amount if the responsible party doesn’t want to comply because every day without a permit is a new violation. Usually the local jurisdiction will be content with the minimum fine, double the permit fee and compliance.

  88. Vicky
    September 1st, 2016 at 11:33 | #127

    Hi- I received a notice from my town inviting me to a public hearing before the Zoning board due to my neighbor’s desire to construct a shed on her property that will require a variance. This neighbor and I have had a very contentious relationship and she has already constructed a huge 8 foot vinyl fence on her section of our property line (I have 3 acres while her property is roughly 1/2 acre)- there are no guidelines for fence construction and in my belief much of the fence either encroached on my property or was directly on the line- in either case she has to trespass in order to maintain it.

    I’m wondering if I can simply object to her constructing it without the required setback simply because I don’t want it there, further solidifying the encroachment on my land. I don’t want to pay thousands for a new survey and don’t have the money for an attorney. I’m worried that in the small town where I live the “good old boys” on the Planning commission can simply override my rights/desires because she is friends with them. Their property is very small and already contains a large home, a garage, a big deck, etc but I feel that there is still space where they could construct it without needing a variance. I know that they’ll argue that their yard is so small that it would have to be almost in the middle of it. I’m sorry, they’ve been so miserable to me- I don’t care. I just don’t want them to build that shed on my property line.

    Please give me any advice that may help me as I argue that this variance should not be granted and that they should have to follow the laws like everyone else.

  89. Kelly
    September 10th, 2016 at 10:46 | #128

    We have lived all over Canada, and the United States, though originally from Belfast Northern Ireland. And we have lived in 4 different states in the United States. The best state for building anything is in Arizona you don’t have to get permits for most anything because it’s your property. Obviously building an add-on to your house or or even a porch you must get a permit. An outside deck, shed, above-the-ground pool all up to you. Here in Florida is it is the exact opposite also California. In Florida you can’t put a above the ground pool, deck, shed, or even put a fence up nothing without getting a permit and paying the government it can get expensive paying for the government’s kids to go to college. We were even more surprised that there’s an easement on almost every property here in Palm Bay. Though it is your property the government gets 5 feet on both sides that is theirs, you can’t build on it in 7 feet from the property line in the back. Though you paid for it it belongs to them and you get to maintain it. Not a fan of Florida or California, The gov sure seems to squeeze a bit more out of you in those states.

    • September 17th, 2016 at 18:34 | #129

      Costs do vary from state to state and from local government to local government. If the costs are higher than necessary, citizens have a right to vote out the people who aren’t doing their job or run for public office themselves. The history of code enforcement goes back thousands of years when buildings would collapse and kill people (coliseums). It extends back to Babylonian and Roman times. Buildings were always burning down in cities in the middle ages because they were made of wood which is why London adopted a fire code in the 1600’s. Behind almost every provision of the building codes is a safety concern. People were hurt or killed or property was damaged by fire, floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters or by people who built things and didn’t know what they were doing. Over time, we have learned how to prevent many of these things from happening by meeting certain standards. What seems like a burdensome requirement usually has a good reason behind it if you talk to a professional (plumber, electrician, structural engineer etc.). I learned a lot about what can go wrong when I was prosecuting. After a natural disaster, one can see why these codes are important. When you see disasters in third world countries where buildings collapse after an earthquake, it is because they haven’t been built following the codes that could have prevented the loss of life and enormous costs of rebuilding. Permits are the price we pay for living in safer buildings than our ancestors. Here’s the problem with not having to follow rules regarding decks and pools. If a deck railing isn’t up to code, children can fall through the railing and be injured or get their heads stuck. I know of a case where a deck had no railing, someone was intoxicated and stepped off of it and died from a skull fracture after he fell. If a pool doesn’t have the necessary safety features to prevent children from accessing it when no one is around supervising them, they can drown. A deck built in Chicago without a permit collapsed after too many people were on it during a party and a number of young adults were killed. The inspectors I worked with are professionals who care about safety and educating the public. Their salaries aren’t going to make them rich. Most of them have experience working construction or in the other trades before becoming inspectors. They attend lots of trainings so they can make sure they don’t miss anything during an inspection that could harm someone.

  90. September 19th, 2016 at 06:27 | #130

    Some people just want to go away with the hassle in filing building permits for minor additional structures in their homes. While subcontractors think they could save a lot of work with applying for a building permit while doing their job. We just follow rules so that everything will be safe. It is that simple. For other info on steel building construction, do visit us: http://www.steelcobuildings.com/

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