April 10, 2006

Do I Need A Building Permit?

Q. Do I need a building permit?

If you are doing minor cosmetic changes without any effect on the structure of the building or changes to the plumbing, heating or electrical systems, you probably don't need a building permit. If you are building walls, adding or moving electrical outlets, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, etc. you DO need a permit.

Q. What if I just go ahead with the work anyway without getting a permit?

In small towns and rural areas, the building department is usually more lenient than in a big city and you may be just fine. But in larger cities and towns the building department is more likely to come down hard on those who try to get away without a permit.

They can actually shut down your job and stop any work from progressing until you get a permit. They can make you tear out the drywall to see if your electrical outlets have been installed according to code. It simply is not worth the risk and aggravation. If you suspect you need a permit, go to your local building department, discuss your project with one of the planners or inspectors and find out for sure.

The worst case I ever saw a client go through involved having to enlarge and upgrade a restroom to meet current ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) requirements. Against my advice this client did extensive remodeling to an existing office on the second floor in a professional building WITHOUT a permit.

They opened for business and all went well for about 2 months. Then a city official stopped in and asked for their business license, which they did not have. When they applied for the business license, the city figured out that there was no building permit issued for this new business. They were caught!

They had no certificate of occupancy, which you get with your final inspection approval. The city shut down the practice and made them apply for a permit and do the restroom upgrades, which I had included in my plans. I knew the restroom had to be upgraded but they didn't want to believe me.

Don't let this happen to you. Get a permit!

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