Whether you’re planning a basic remodel or a major addition, after months of planning for a home renovation, you’re likely very eager to get started. So, if you’re hit with the realization that you need to undergo the process to secure a required permit for said renovation, you could experience a disappointing and unexpected delay.
And while not every renovation or project requires a permit, some do, and there can be costly consequences if you fail to secure one. But which projects require a permit, and which can go without? Read on as we break it all down for you.
What is a Home Renovation Permit?
A home renovation permit, or building permit, is a type of permit issued by your local building department with the goal to ensure 1., that a building inspector has already reviewed your renovation and project plans (and they meet all building codes and local regulations), and 2., safety in regards to the structure and those that live in it.
Home renovation permits are designed to ensure all project plans are compliant with local ordinances for things like zoning and construction, which makes certain the safety of current and future home occupants. Specific issues these permits address include the structural integrity of framing work, zoning, sanitation, water and sewer lines, fire protection, and electrical.
How Do I Know If My Project Requires a Permit?
Building permits have a reputation for being a hassle, and rightfully so. In order to obtain one, it can be expensive, time-consuming, and frustrating. But, unless you’re making cosmetic interior upgrades to your home (like painting or swapping out a faucet), securing a builder’s permit is a necessary evil to move ahead with your project.
The first place to visit to begin the process of finding out if you need a permit (and how to secure one) is to your city or town’s website. Note that if you hire a professionally licensed contractor, they’ll likely already know whether or not your job requires a permit, but never assume the permits were handled by the contractor.
What Do I Need to Secure a Permit?
Once you’ve checked (and double checked) that a permit is required, you can begin the process to apply and secure your permit. This process varies by location, but you’ll want to have the project plans or blueprints handy, along with the cash to pay the permit application fee, which can range anywhere from $50 for installing a fence, to several hundred dollars for a room addition.
Keep in mind that if you’ve hired a professional contracting team to complete your project for you, you can have them pull the permit, or you can pull it for them.
What Happens If I Don’t Get a Required Permit?
Failure to secure a building permit when you need one can be a very costly mistake. If (and when) your town’s building department discovers the work you’ve been doing without a permit, they can notify you to instantly cease work until you receive the proper building permit. During this time, you can also be charged $500 or more per day for violating permit laws. Whatsmore, if you don’t pay those fines, your county could put a lien on your property and you could lose your home.
And that’s just the start. The building inspector could require you to demolish any work you’ve done without a permit (meaning you’ll have to pay to redo it all once your permit is secured!), and you could even lose your home insurance as a result of conducting un-approved work on the home.
If you’re unsure whether or not your home renovation project will require a permit, it’s best to err on the side of caution and just ask a contractor you trust (or research your town’s specific regulations and requirements).
By checking ahead of time, you can build-in permit approvals to your project timeline, and potentially save yourself from expensive fees and fines if you’d otherwise neglected to do so.