Unpermitted work in homes often goes unnoticed by everyone from the home inspector to the original seller. This is because unpermitted work can be one of the messier topics of home improvement. Different neighborhoods have different priorities, and few homeowners (or even home inspectors) have the time or the wherewithal to parse through numerous building codes. Unpermitted work often happens as an innocent do-it-yourself project, when the owner doesn't know they need a permit.
However, homeowners who do turn a blind eye to the quality of previous renovations can find themselves in trouble if the wrong person discovers the flaws. Bad or unpermitted renovations can include a renovation of a kitchen, bathroom or an addition to the home. Find out more about what constitutes unpermitted work means and how it can be remediated.
Some neighborhoods give their residents free rein when it comes to their properties, while others have serious stipulations. Some homeowners have to hire approved contractors to upgrade their space, while others may just need to clear their plans first with City Hall. Permit laws change from year to year too, making remediation even more complicated. A homeowner from 10 years ago may not have kept records if they had no reason to do so in the first place.
Clarifying the Laws
Homeowners can find laws anywhere from their local City Hall to online resources. Those who are confused about the laws should ask follow-up questions to their city officials. It's a smart way for homeowners to avoid wasted time and effort because legal language may be open to interpretation. Unpermitted work may be easier to fix than homeowners think if they do their research first.
Steps to Take
There are a few key steps homeowners can take, regardless of the neighborhood they live in:
- Do the research: Homeowners who find out everything they can about the work stand the best chance of remediation. This may mean tracking down the original blueprints or records of when the work took place.
- Talk to officials: Most city officials will work with homeowners in their area. Schedule an appointment, bring evidence, and then ask what the next steps should be.
- Evaluate the choices: Many towns will issue retroactive permits if the work was completed correctly. The other option is fixing the unpermitted work or hiring licensed contractors to finish the job.
Homeowners aren't technically required to pay for unpermitted work if they didn't complete the renovations. However, in practice, most homeowners end up paying for it because it's difficult to prove what previous homeowners did (and when they did it) if there are no official records to reference. Plus, it may be more expensive to file in small claims court if the case isn't strong enough.
Homeowners do have the option to sell their home as-is if they don't want to fix their home. However, this isn't always the best choice because Olathe homeowners are still responsible for any damage that may occur due to unpermitted work. For example, if previous renovations interfere with the neighbor's drainage, then homeowners may be required to pay for the neighbor's repair bills (not to mention their own). In addition, most real estate agents will steer their clients away from homes being sold as-is. There are too many unknowns for agents to recommend homes that may have safety flaws.
Unpermitted work can be distressing for homeowners to find. They may feel like they're going down a rabbit hole trying to prove what repairs were made and when they were made. However, homeowners who do the research and stay in touch with their city officials have a solid chance of successful (and affordable) remediation.