The Truth About Permits

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There are three sides to every coin and that includes residential building permits. Our governments and business have learned very well how to hide the truth.  Its not about what they tell you, its trying to figure out what they don’t tell you! Permits are game just like life! It’s like cowboys and indians, cops and robbers or Corporations and the people.  A home owner trying to get away without getting permits because it is going to cost twice as much and take twice as long is the same old song.

The only good thing that comes from getting a residential building permit is that the building inspector will make sure all work is up to code and they would weed out any contractors without the proper insurance. In my 20+ years as a professional remodeling contractor, my opinion is that there 3 downsides and just that one upside.  Of course you still need to hire an experienced contractor who knows they are doing which can be half the battle.

The first downside is the project will take +/- twice as long and cost approximately twice as much. The worst are usually kitchens and bathrooms because they are the most used rooms in a home and they have all the mechanicals too! These projects usually take twice as long as they should because of all different contractors, GC and the different building inspectors involved. Scheduling and coordination of the inspections are the most frustrating part of the process. It wastes a whole day for the contractor by waiting for the inspector in their (3 -4 hour) window of arrival. The GC has to wait until that inspection passes to schedule the next trade to do their work which is usually a waste of a couple more days. To top it off, most building inspectors that I have dealt with have a power complex. They take enforcing the “Law” too serious sometimes and have ruined a lot of peoples days and lives in some cases. I was acting as a GC on a project recently and the project was completed, we were waiting for the final inspection.  Their earliest available was a week and a half away and they gave me a 4 hour window when they would arrive. This is a property my client is flipping and kind of time sensitive.  A total power move because this particular village does not like flippers in their community. They made our electrician run a ground wire in the entire homes piping system and ground all the box/outlets/switches. The whole home already has existing CONDUIT too. They said the conduit might have a loose connector! On final inspection day, everything passed except the fact that the electrical inspector had to see inside the panel. I did not have a screwdriver, he did and would not open it. So now I had to schedule another inspection. Oh, thought I might tell you that this is the Village of Bartlett in Illinois. I’m not saying that every project is all this bad, but there is always a ton of wasted time and time = money!

The second downside is your tax base will go up.  If you have ever got permits and wonder why they need to know the “approximate cost of project?” That is because the tax assessor will eventually get a copy of that and raise your property value accordingly. Some Municipalities will use Google maps and go house by house of the previous year with a carbon copy type program and see if there is anything different such as additions or decks on the home. This usually only takes place in upscale communities!

The third downside is if you open up some walls and find something that is not up to code that has no implications on the project, your building inspector will make you redu that issue and bring it up to code. In many cases this has happened to me and it just is not feasible to bring things up to code so the project hits a wall and the home owner is out of some money and everyone’s time is wasted.

I have concluded that over the long haul as a contractor it is cheaper to try and get away with not getting permits and take the hit on the ones where you get caught. My professional opinion is to only get permits for any alterations on the exterior of the home like decks, additions, garages, sheds and fences. Anything done on the interior of the home do not get permits, use Bagster as your dumpster and get rid of all the evidence in as short of a time period as possible. Keep an eye on nosey neighbors, put a lock on their gas meter on the coldest day of the year if they report you!