When Do You Need A City Permit For Remodeling or Updating?

Dated: December 2 2020

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When Do You Need A City Permit For Remodeling or Updating?

Know When A Building Permit Is Required

There is a lot of confusion about residential building permits. Do I need a building permit for a home project? Can’t I make renovations to my own home without getting the city involved? Which projects require a permit and which ones don’t? How do I go about securing a permit? What happens if I don’t get a permit for a renovation requiring one?

Lots of home-owners are planning to make renovations over the next few years. Baby boomers are remodeling so the large two story home in which they raised their family can accommodate their aging in place; Growing families are looking to expand their living space and their options in the downtown area where older homes were not necessarily built for large families; Owners of older homes might also want a more modern, open concept to their floor plan. Whether it’s knocking down a wall to open up the home, or adding an entire second story, it pays to check with your city planning and development departments to make sure you are compliant with city permitting codes.

Why Do I Need A Building Permit For A Home Project? 

The main reason cities give for requiring building permits for new construction, extensive renovations, additions, structural changes and some electrical and plumbing projects is SAFETY. A permit allows knowledgable employees to review your plans and perform inspections to ensure that build quality conforms to city safety codes. Let’s face it, we live in a society, and what you do to your home, could affect the homes near you. If a second story addition isn’t up to code, it can be a safety concern for your family and your neighbors.

A second reason for getting required building permits prior to renovating, concerns the value of your home. Too many times we have had buyers fall in love with a home that they heartbreakingly walked away from because they find out that the expansion of the kitchen was NOT permitted. There is no way to affirm the quality of that expansion, and whether it was completed up to safety codes. And if they new owners decide to seek a permit after the fact, the cost and complexity can be daunting. And THAT absolutely effects the value of your home. Your home may linger on the market for considerably longer than others, and will likely sell for less to accommodate for the lack of permitting.

How Do I Find Out If I Need A Permit and How Do I Get One?

The best place to find out if you need a building permit for a home project is your city planning and development department. A simple google search for (City Name) Building Permit will take you to a page like this one – the Chandler Development Department permitting information page.  Many of your questions will be answered and you will be offered options for researching the need for a permit and the ways in which you can secure one. You will be required to pay fees for the permit, which is often based on the value of the renovation, the plan review, inspection and other services which may or may not be required for your particular project. Some cities offer walk-in services, online applications or phone consultations for simple questions.

I’m Interested In Purchasing A Home That Has Been Renovated or Has An Addition. How Do I Find Out If The Build Has Been Permitted? 

When a buyer is interested in a home with an obvious renovation, they will want as much information about the quality of the build in deterring their decision to make an offer. Was the work done by a licensed contractor? Was it inspected to ensure compliance with city codes? Often times questioning a seller about the permit status of a building change is met with a shrug and no real answer. Maybe the renovation was done several home-owners ago and the current owner never inquired (their Realtor certainly should have advised them to find out!). Or maybe the current owner did the renovation and never thought about the need to get a permit. Are you solely reliant upon the knowledge of the seller? Not really. You can use the city development department to look up whether an address has had any permits issued. A good thing to know.

Of course maintaining safety and compliance presents challenges in terms of time and money. But NOT securing necessary permits will end up costing you more in the end and could result in some safety related consequences that could have been avoided.

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Sharyn Younger

Family, Community, Home, Helping. These are the things at the core of who we are. As a home buyer or seller, that means YOU are among our highest priorities - whether you're a first time home buyer, i....

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