If you’re in the beginning stages of planning your home addition you’ve probably got endless questions. Afterall, building something from the ground up is a huge undertaking. It’s an opportunity not everyone gets, so if you’re one of the lucky few who do, you want it done right! That’s where proper permitting comes in.
Maybe you’ve heard there’s ways around building permits for home additions or maybe you’re confident you can do the work on your own with the city being none the wiser about permits. Before you get ahead of yourself though, take a closer look at the permit requirements for your home addition. Weigh the risks with us below and you be the judge.
Can I Build A Home Addition Without Permitting?
In a word, no. You can’t build a home addition without a permit; At least not without consequence. Even so, this doesn’t keep some homeowners from trying and succeeding, either by doing the work themselves or hiring an unethical contractor or handyman. Unfortunately, they’ll find this shortcut presents a slew of problems that could have easily been avoided.
Even if you try to be sneaky and build without a permit (and sometimes it seems much easier to do so), the bottomline is that permits for home additions are there for your safety. The permitting process allows the city to check your plans for flaws and later inspect the work, ensuring it’s up to the safety standards required by the state.
Why People Build Home Additions Without Permitting
- DIY: The DIY (do it yourself) movement is still going strong with many homeowners taking matters into their own hands. If they can’t do it, they might have a family friend or relative that can. The desire to “do it yourself” coupled with personal connections can lead to building an addition without permit.
- Cost: The price of obtaining a building permit can deter some from applying for one at all; Though the cost of the permit, generally in the hundreds, is nothing in comparison to the penalties incurred if you’re caught building without one.
- Timeline: Homeowners with their hearts set on starting their addition as soon as possible might be more prone to bend the rules. Permitting may take a while between submitting the actual plans and application and then waiting on the permit to become available.
Risks of Building a Home Addition Without a Permit
Can a home addition be built without permitting? Sure. Is it your best option in the long run? Certainly not. There’s more than a handful of reasons why building an addition without permit is a risk without rewards. Check out some of these reasons below, noting the consequential and legal ramifications:
- Loan Obstacles: There’s no guarantee of mortgage companies approving a home’s financing if the home has unpermitted work. This can pose major issues when it comes time to sell (more on that later) or for those who acquired a home without knowledge of the permitting issues.
Lenders will likely require an in depth inspection of the unpermitted work to be submitted with the loan application. Others may only approve the loan if the project can become permitted and then approved by inspectors. Even after all of this, there’s still a chance the loan application will be rejected altogether.
- Penalties: If making retroactive corrections weren’t enough, building an addition without permit almost always leads to penalties. The cost of these penalties varies based upon exactly what work was done without the permit. Fines for building without permit can be upwards of $600 and into the thousands if the penalty isn’t paid within a certain amount of time.
States like California take accountability to the next level, upping the penalties significantly for any contractors who have been found not using proper permitting. The Contractors State License Board states that penalties can reach up to $5,000 for those operating outside their permitting safety standards.
- Resale Issues: You may think you worked the system and successfully constructed a home addition without permitting but when it comes time to sell you may think differently. Going into the selling process your home won’t be appraised for as high a value as your square footage deserves since the addition wasn’t done under permits.
Many prospective homebuyers may also become uninterested once they’re made aware of the unpermitted work. It’s mandatory for the current homeowners to report their unpermitted work in the selling process and some buyers might not want to take on the hassle of getting it up to code or the risk of insuring it as is.
- Insurance Problems: Insurance companies want to be sure that the project they’re insuring has been approved by all the right entities. You’d be hard pressed to find an insurance carrier that doesn’t perform their due diligence with regard to permitting when a homeowner specifically requests build coverage for an addition.
Even if the carrier doesn’t ask for this permitting proof upfront, you’d likely run into problems if you need to make a claim on incidents during the build of the addition. Once they find that it wasn’t properly permitted, you’ll be on the hook to cover the amount of the incident.
Similarly, it’ll be near impossible to find coverage for the addition itself once it’s complete if it was done without permitting. Trying to make a claim with your current carrier for anything falling under this new work will undoubtedly be denied, seen as negligence on your part by the insurance carrier.
- Faulty Results: One of the biggest risks of building an addition without permit is ending up with a bad final result. The permit application can make certain there’s no potential issues in your design, especially when it comes to structure. Improper foreknowledge can lead to structural instability and lack of other support materials.
The same can be said for virtually any part of the build from the wiring down to the floors. At the end of the day, a project of this size requiring this much time, effort, and money should produce a perfect product. There’s no need to risk any other outcome.
While building an addition without permit might be a tempting prospect, don’t take the easy way out in exchange for instant gratification. Make sure the work is done right by obtaining the proper permitting and in turn, protecting yourself and your home in the process.
Are you ready to get started on your home addition but aren’t clear on your permitting needs? We’re ready to assist! Get a FREE home addition consultation in the Los Angeles area! Call Structura Remodeling at 1-800-922-4613 or schedule a free consultation here:
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What if an honest mistake was made and I did not get a permit accidentally?
If you’re doing the work yourself and aren’t well versed on the ins and outs of the build process, mistakes are anticipated. Albeit, not permitting a home addition is a rather large and often costly mistake to make. If the damage is already done though and you’ve started the build without a permit, you may be wondering, “Can I get a permit after remodeling”. In short, yes. It is possible to retroactively permit the work.
Contacting your city is the best place to start. They’ll direct you to whatever paperwork is necessary which should resemble the permitting paperwork you should have filled out from the start. A retroactive build permit can be issued once the city confirms that your project design and product are up to snuff.
What’s the process for obtaining a permit for my home addition?
The process of getting your home addition building permit is fairly straightforward. You’ll want to check your city’s requirements, most of which start with a design and a full set of plans (blue prints) which will be required for the application. Once complete, you’ll file your application and the city will review your plans and request.
Usually there is some back and forth between city departments (building and planning) for minor corrections including new codes or ordinances. Upon approval, you’ll be issued an RTI (ready to issue) and then a permit can be pulled. Lucky for you, when you use a contractor they take care of this entire process, making it seamless for you!
The permitting process doesn’t end once you have it in hand though. Keep in mind, you’ll have to pass multiple inspections throughout the process and a final inspection when it’s all said and done. This comes in the form of three different inspections to include building, plumbing, mechanical and electrical. Again, in the end the permitting really does act as a safety mechanism for you.
Though sometimes a long process, you’ll be able to rest assured that your project was done correctly and the final product is safe for you and your family.
How long does it take to get a permit and how long will it last?
Once everything is filed, it can take about 3 to 6 months to receive your building permit. Keep in mind this number can be a “give or take” scenario depending on your county and the overall scope of the project being reviewed.
As far as expiration goes, if you stick to your timeline you shouldn’t need to worry about re-applying for a permit. Building permits for home additions will remain good for 1 to 2 years. So long as your team begins the building process within 6 months after receipt of the permit, you’ll be good to go.
What if my home addition is attached to the current home. Does it need a permit?
Home additions don’t necessarily have to be detached from the main home itself. Many of these additions come in the form of ADUs or accessory dwelling units that are considered additions in themselves. They can be a garage conversion, finished basement, or added floor.
All of the home additions above do require a permit to build. Since these additions still require installation of plumbing, electrical, and building materials, they need to be up to code and properly inspected. All of which will occur with the help of a permit.