If you are looking to obtain a building permit, there are several steps you will need to complete – or you can simply hire a professional.
If you are considering doing some work to your house, before you purchase even a single nail you’ll need to prepare yourself for one of the most dreaded parts of the construction process: paperwork.
If you are considering any significant work on your house or your property – whether you are building an ADU, bumping out your kitchen, or just cutting down some trees in your backyard, your first stop should always be to your local city commission’s website to see what you need before you begin work. Depending on the level of work you may not need anything, but more often than not you’ll need to secure the proper permits. If you don’t, and if the local government is alerted to your work, you could face serious penalties, including crippling fines and possibly an order to stop all work.
The easiest way to handle permits and observance of local ordinances is to work with a contractor that knows how to navigate the bureaucracy. This might seem like a simple thing to ask for, but in general, the national average cost of a building permit is $1,237. It is typically a percentage of the estimated cost of the construction, but it changes by region.
And that’s after you’ve found the correct forms and filled everything out multiple times. It is not a fun process, and it’s one you should seek help from experts for – if for no other reasons than to save yourself huge amounts of aggravation.
Why Permitting is Important
Every local government is different when it comes to regulations. Sometimes there are building regulations based on environmental concerns (basements, for instance, aren’t permitted everywhere because of soil conditions), sometimes it’s a matter of city planning (there’s a reason you can’t open a business on a residential street), while sometimes it’s a matter of preference (if you live in an area with a view, you can’t just build a four-story house and block out your neighbors).
Each region is different, and within those regions there are often specific rules and regulations for individual neighborhoods. Seeking permits is required in part to ensure that you are following all the local ordinances. There are also public health and safety concerns, as well as regulations regarding things like using the proper building materials. It might be tempting to save a few dollars on unregulated materials, but in a few years, if it turns out they are hazardous, you’ll be glad for the regulations.
When You Need a Permit
Again, the requirements are different under each local government, but in general, if you are doing any significant construction, you will need a permit, especially in heavily populated urban areas.
Your first step should always be to check with the governing authorities. Minor work or additions to your home may not require any additional steps, but you won’t know until you check. Some areas require permits for things like hot tubs or even adding new lights to the front of your house. This might be an extreme example, but the consequences of not checking and being found to be in the wrong can be staggering.
What Happens if you Don’t Get a Permit
If you ignore the permitting process, you will almost certainly pay for it. Your neighbors may like you well enough to ignore the sounds of construction for months, but if you ever try to sell your home and an unpermitted addition is discovered, you will not like what happens next. Plus, building inspectors are frequently checking on construction around the city all the time, and if one happens to pass through your area and sees the construction, they will almost certainly make a note to check your permits at some point.
If you are caught without a permit during construction, the local building authorities will almost certainly work immediately and make you obtain permits before you can continue – if you are lucky. They are also within their rights to impose heavy fines. And if the local authorities find out later – which they almost certainly will at some point – you will be in serious trouble.
When someone sells their house, the property is typically inspected, sometimes multiple times. The history of the house is also researched, and if there are any irregularities – say the house is 200 square feet larger than it should be and there are no permits explaining this – you will likely face a significant fine and be required to pay back taxes on the property along with penalties on those taxes.
Talk to a Contractor
Obtaining permits is a time consuming and often costly process, and if you don’t know all the regulations and zoning laws, it can be a time-consuming headache. Plus, if you haven’t already obtained a loan for the work, you’ll need to pay for the permits out of pocket, and that could run you hundreds, even thousands of dollars.
If you hire a contractor, they should be willing and able to handle the permitting process for you. Not only will they know the local regulations, they almost certainly have a process to ensure that the permitting process goes as smoothly and quickly as possible.
Once that process is complete, talk to your contractor and ask them to go over the permits with you. You may not need to know the legal details of the construction, but if/when you sell your house it will probably come up. Be informed and be ready.
We Can Help!
The permitting process can be a stressful one, but it doesn’t have to be.
If you are considering work to your home or business that is significant enough to require permits, contact Fleschner Construction today. The team at Fleschner have years of experience working with local governments throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
Cover Image Courtesy of: Arcdesign