Whether you are thinking of doing repairs around the house, or if you are buying a house that has been “refurbished”, you need to know what permits are required.
Permits are required to ensure that a house is safe. If you are changing the structure, or moving water, gas or electrical, you may very well need to obtain a permit so that you don’t create a hazard. This typically does not apply to installing or changing fixture such as a faucet or a light. You can even upgrade switches and receptacles without getting a permit. But if you need to add or move receptacles for a kitchen remodel, or run a gas line for a BBQ, you could be creating a fire hazard.
One of the most common repairs we see that requires a permit is the replacement of a water heater. It appears simple; simply disconnect the old one and hook up the water, flue and gas. How hard can that be? Unfortunately, a poorly installed water heater can kill. The flue must be installed correctly. This involves securing the sections of the flue and sloping it properly so that Carbon Monoxide does not collect in the house. Sadly, a restaurant manger was killed and dozens sickened in a restaurant where the water heater flue failed and vented CO into the building.
There are other safety devices that must also be installed properly to avoid disaster such as a Temperature and Pressure Relief valve (TPR) which releases over-heated water and prevents the water heater from exploding. This valve has to be plumbed properly.
Decks are another potentially deadly hazard. Every year people get injured or killed due to poorly constructed decks. They may perform well until that one birthday party when too many people gather on the deck and it collapses. A deck collapse was recently captured on security cameras at which many people were injured.
If you are purchasing a “Flip” house, try to obtain as many permits as you can. You can go to your local building department to obtain these permits. If no permits were issued for the repairs, you may want to request inspections to obtain as-built permits prior to closing escrow.
Landlords should be particularly careful when performing repairs without permits. In the event a tenant gets injured, and construction was done without permits, the landlord will be held negligent.
Even if you or your contractor do everything correctly, you can still be fined if a building department inspector finds these repairs while inspecting other non-related items. This can result in fines, opening walls to view the repairs, and even complete removal of the project. So before you buy that beautiful flip house with the non-permitted bedroom, just remember that the building inspector can tell you to remove it.