Unpermitted work or additions to a home without municipal certificates of occupancy or completion is any construction done on a home without the necessary legal permits and final municipal approvals. Sometimes former homeowners may finish the basement, add a deck, add electrical appliances, or fences or complete an addition without obtaining permits or obtaining final approvals.
If you discover or know that work on the home you purchased or want to purchase has had work done without permits or final approvals, you may want to pay early and special attention to the situation so that it does not cause serious delays with the closing or cause you to waste much time and money.
Risks of a house with unpermitted work
Homebuyers should consider obtaining copies of certificates of occupancy or completion for any work done on the house after the original house was built and an initial certificate of occupancy was issued. If you cannot obtain these, consider reviewing the tax assessor’s records since the size of the home, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, decks and finished basement or attic determine the value of the home for tax purposes and you may be able to tell that there is a discrepancy between the municipal records and what is actually at the home.
Unpermitted work is dangerous. It may not follow local codes or it may cover a defect in the home. Unpermitted work can prevent you from closing since your lender will usually refuse to close on the mortgage for your home. To do so, you must redo the work with the proper inspections, permits and final approvals.
Consequences of work without a permit
In the end, the municipality may require you to tear the new work out or correct it, which can be a serious and expensive problem, particularly if you are not the one who did the work. It is an issue if you purchase the home and find that the work done in the past to save money can cause electrical issues or fire hazards. As a new homeowner, you may not legally use the “illegal” bedroom or finished basement.
Overall, it is extremely important to ascertain that all the work done on the home has had a permit and a certificate of occupancy or completion issued by the permitting authority (generally the municipal building department). If you suspect it does not, consider looking at another home. There are many homes on the market and getting stuck with unpermitted work on a home may well cost you a good deal of money and effort to remedy.