How Homeowners Can Manage Unpermitted Work
Getting permits before starting a home improvement project on a Cedar Park home seems like a small step. However, a lot of people end up with unpermitted work in their homes. There are many reasons homeowners have house upgrades without the proper permitting. For many people, problems arise when they try to sell the home only to discover they must make major renovations in order to satisfy buyer expectations. By learning these five things, homeowners will understand what they can do when they discover unpermitted work in their homes.
1. Understand Why Unpermitted Work Is a Problem
Failing to get the proper permits feels like a paperwork problem, but it is often much larger. There is a reason contractors or handy homeowners do not get the permits before they start building. Part of it is related to cost, but it often involves fear they cannot get the permit or do the work as required. Contractors who lack the proper licensing for the work may skip the permit step because they do not want to get caught. Homeowners who add on to the home in a DIY project may not know to get a permit, and this lack of knowledge may also apply to current building codes. As such, unpermitted work may make the home unsafe.
2. Document the Details
Once people discover some aspect of the property did not have the proper permits before construction, it becomes a fact-finding mission. It may take days or weeks to figure out what is right and what is wrong with the house. People should start by looking at the blueprints and evaluate upgrade projects from there. Homeowners who do not have a copy of the original blueprints for the home may need to ask the city or county for this information. At the same time, people can search for permit records for the lot. Some cities keep this information public and available for decades. If there is no record for a permit for the work, homeowners can assume it is unpermitted. They may need to document the condition and all aspects of the home related to that specific project to help guide a remediation effort.
3. Request Retroactive Permits
In some cases, homeowners can apply for retroactive permits. Certain cities allow this, but there are a lot of requirements people may not be able to meet. It is fairly unlikely, but people who had unpermitted work recently might want to try anyway. As a general rule, cities will not grant retroactive permits unless they can see all aspects of the work and determine if it was completed appropriately. City inspectors won't usually dig into walls or tear up flooring to verify the work. If the project is easy to examine and the city has a policy on retroactive permits, homeowners may be able to get the permit. In this case, it would appear as if the work always had a permit.
4. Consider Remediating the Problem
What homeowners decide to do with unpermitted work depends on the project and what they plan to do with the home. In many instances, unpermitted work has significant problems, which can render the structure unsafe or cause other issues with the property. Even if the project seems to have been done correctly and safely, homeowners may still need to consider remediation. Homeowners insurance policies may not cover damage resulting from unpermitted work, particularly if the homeowner knows about it. They also face liability for the unpermitted work once they plan to sell.
To remediate unpermitted work, homeowners usually need to hire a licensed contractor to remove all aspects of the unpermitted work and install something in its place. People who are looking to sell soon and do not want to spend a lot of money should take care when considering DIY remediation. Trying to take care of it personally may create more unpermitted work, depending on the nature of the problem.
5. Be Honest When Selling
In most cases, unpermitted work becomes the biggest issue at selling time. Homeowners are bound by law to honestly describe the condition of the home. Unpermitted work represents a serious liability, especially if it compromises the condition of the house. As such, sellers should plan to outline the details of the unpermitted work, as well as records of their remediation efforts. Documenting all upgrades to the property in the homeowner's tenure creates a paper trail for prospective buyers to follow. It helps establish credibility and can also provide evidence sellers have met their obligations.
6. Seller Beware: Marketing Unpermitted Work is Against the Rules
Homeowners cannot use unpermitted work as a selling point, even if the home feature is highly coveted. It does not matter if the feature is an in-ground swimming pool or additional room, if a permit was not acquired, then it cannot be marketed. They cannot add the feature to online ads or on flyers in an attempt to use it to sell the home. When homebuyers come through to take a look, they cannot hype up that feature and get everyone excited about using it.
Since they are required to disclose all they know about the home while selling, they will need to let prospective homebuyers know it exists and about the lack of permit. This ensures the buyer’s safety and helps protect the current homeowner from legal repercussions. In response to the disclosure, the buyer may ask to have the work remediated with a permit or attempt to negotiate the price down to cover those costs.
Unpermitted work is strikingly common but also highly problematic, particularly when people start thinking about selling the home. By taking these five steps, homeowners can manage unpermitted work in a way to minimize issues in the future.