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Am I Responsible if the Contractor Doesn’t Pull Permits for My Project?

Margaret Wack
Written by Margaret Wack
Updated February 25, 2022
Home under construction
Photo: Dana Neely / Stone / Getty Images

Highlights

  • Permits are usually included in a contractors bid.

  • If there are no permits pulled, the homeowner is responsible.

  • Proper permits are necessary when selling or insuring your home.

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If your contractor just wrapped up a renovation project at your house and you find out that it was done without a permit, you are responsible for footing the bill. The good news is that you can file for a permit after the work is complete. Here’s a breakdown of what to do and how to remediate the situation.

What to Do if My Contractor Didn’t Get a Building Permit

Most reputable contractors include the price of permits in their bids. However, not all contractors pull permits. If your contractor didn’t get a building permit before starting construction on your home, you’re responsible for securing a permit after the fact.

For any permit pulled after the work is done, you’ll face a fine that doubles what would have been your initial cost, had the contractor pulled it before construction started. You should contact your local building and planning commission as soon as possible and explain your situation.

What to Do if the Project Is Complete

The building and planning commission will schedule an inspection to see what work your contractor completed. The inspector will only approve modifications that they can visibly see. If the project is more complex, then a visual inspection may not be sufficient. In some cases, you may even need to undo parts of the construction if it does not meet building safety standards.

The inspector must also ensure that your home meets local building codes. The inspector may ask you to provide information about the company that did the work, so they can check in and certify with the contractor what work was done. If your contractor is unresponsive, you might need to call in a reputable structural engineer near you who can evaluate the project and share any findings with the commission.

What to Do if the Project Is Ongoing

If there’s still ongoing work for your addition, you should pull those permits before the contractor completes any more work. You can have the permits checked off by the inspector for compliance as the contractor completes the project.

What Happens if I Don’t Get the Proper Permits

Home addition
Photo: Steven Puetzer / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Unpermitted work can potentially result in a few unfavorable scenarios that may affect the ability to sell or insure your home in the future.

Selling Your Home

If you don’t pull the proper permits, your house likely won’t pass inspection if you try to sell it. Even if you don’t intend to sell your home in the near future, it’s important to understand the consequences of unpermitted work. If you sell your home without the proper permits, the new owner could sue you for misrepresenting the property.

Insurance Complications

If you have to modify your homeowners insurance policy or change insurance companies, your insurance company could ask you for a Certificate of Occupancy. If the certificate doesn’t show structural changes that have been made, the insurance company can decline to cover the home because it is not code-compliant.

Safety Risks

There are also safety considerations to keep in mind when it comes to having work done without a permit. If your contractor did any electrical work or added any gas connections, those could represent potential fire hazards. This is why it’s important to work with a reputable contractor near you who can be relied upon to get the right permits ahead of time and ensure that the construction project is completed with every safety measure accounted for.

FAQs About Permits

What permits do I need for a home addition?

Permits required for home additions include building permits and permits for electric, plumbing, and HVAC work if applicable. Which permits you need depends on where you live and your specific construction project.

Do I really need a building permit?

If you complete any new construction on your home, you’ll likely need a building permit. Without a permit, you may be subject to fines and penalties. You may also find it more difficult to sell your home or obtain adequate insurance coverage. Plus, homes without permits may not meet building standards, and could be more vulnerable to safety issues.

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