Not always. But this should be your starting point any time you’re considering a remodel.

Types of remodels that require a permit:

  • Any remodel that is going to involve electrical or plumbing work
  • Changes to the home’s structure, including changing walls that are load-bearing
  • Adding sheds, garages (or expanding the garage)
  • Adding a deck that connects to the house
  • Installing fences
  • Adding new windows
  • Removing or adding walls
  • Re-roofing
  • Remodels that change the use of a space, such as turning a basement or garage into a living space
  • Any sort of demolition

Consequences of not getting a permit for remodels

Simply put, city governments usually don’t mess around when it comes to permits for jobs.

Sure, you may know someone who has bragged that they got away with an un-permitted addition to their home or deck for years and no one knew the better.

But if the city gets wind of your project and it isn’t permitted, they can shut the project down mid-stream. Your contractor will be ordered to stop work, and you’ll be hit with fines.

It doesn’t matter if the job is almost done.

In a recent example, we were bidding on a job and the homeowner opted to go with another company. That company chose to cut corners and did not obtain the proper permits for the job in order to keep costs down.

We kept an eye on the project since it was someone we knew, and unfortunately for them the city did catch onto the remodel shortly after it began.

In this case the city was pretty ruthless.

There was no reasoning with them with things like, “But this one section is almost done! Can’t we at least finish that?”

Nope. They sent a cease work order to the contractor, who was legally obligated to comply. They obviously abandoned the project because they’d be in serious trouble if they continued working, and the homeowner was left with a fine and a mess.

Situations like that continue to be tricky because, as the homeowner, you’re now taking a new round of bids from contractors who may be extra reluctant to take over the job.

That reluctance is because it started with someone else’s work — someone who obviously was cutting corners — so they aren’t sure how much extra complication there will be.

And in some cases since they know the city is already paying extra attention to the property now, they may be intimidated to get involved for fear that they become associated with the fallout.

If that happens and you have a tough time finding a contractor who is willing to take over, you may end up paying a lot more because you don’t have negotiating power over price, since you can’t be as choosy about who does the work.

And if the work is already done and they become aware of it, you’ll face fines as well as complications when you go to sell the property. After all, non-permitted additions and remodels will not pass safety inspections, which can create red tape during the sale of the property.