9

What happens if we build a half bath in Minneapolis without getting permits for any of the work? Specifically, if we intend to sell the home at some point in the coming years?

  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. Unfortunately, any answer to this question will be a matter of opinion. Please take our tour so you'll know how best to participate here. – Daniel Griscom Sep 23 at 22:08
  • 2
    You can walk up to local government building office and ask what type of work needs permits. They would know on hand. – Nelson Sep 24 at 7:39
  • 2
    Not an answer, just something to consider. Most realtors and/or buyers will (at some point) look at tax records for properties for sale. At that point, it will become painfully obvious that the work was not permitted because your home won't match the description in the tax record. Keep that in mind. Some buyers will be cautious about buying a house that's had unpermitted work, and others will try to use that as leverage to get the price down or force you to change things (i.e. tear it out or get it re-done with a permit). – dwizum Sep 24 at 19:06
  • 1
    Minneapolis resident here. If you list your house with the increased number of baths, they will notice it differs from their records. They will hassle you to straighten everything out, which may be at significant cost to you. Doing something like repairs or changes that don't change your house's "stats" are far more likely to fly under the radar. – whatsisname Sep 25 at 5:25
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about local building codes and legal advice. – BMitch Sep 25 at 12:18
35

Non-expert information ahead... For the most part, nothing happens... immediately. People do work without permits all the time. Sometimes its very major work, sometimes it's just a "technicality" and the permit is kinda silly. Often, no one finds out and no one asks. I'm not saying it's ok - just saying it happens.

But, since you are planning to sell soon, you really should make sure it's all on the level. Say the buyer has an inspector come by and he finds any little silly issue with the work. A good Realtor would ask for the permits on the recent work. If you don't have them it turns into a huge negotiation tool. It might not even be an inspector. Someone could just notice the recent work or see that the number of bathrooms has changed.

Then let's say that you don't sell the house and you live there. A pipe in the shower springs a leak and you call the insurance company. Strange - we don't have a record of that extra bathroom. Where are the permits for the work? Oh, no permits for this illegal addition? That's not covered, and furthermore, we are dropping the policy and reporting this to your lender.

Of course cases like that are rare, and that's why people skate by and don't get permits and claim, heck I've never pulled a permit and never had an issue! Like so many building rules, that's right - you never have an issue at all, until you have a big, huge expensive issue.

  • 17
    also "unpermitted" and "not to code" are two very different things. – Brad Sep 24 at 2:53
  • 2
    For what it's worth, I think homeowners insurance does cover unpermitted work - the logic being your insurance covers preventable disasters (e.g., cooking fire) in addition to unpreventable (e.g., car crashing into your house). – WannabeCoder Sep 24 at 13:25
  • @WannabeCoder, that may be, but I think at some point they can consider you to be negligent if you made a bad error. I'd rather deal with the permit than have to deal with an insurance company later tho. – JPhi1618 Sep 24 at 14:43
  • 3
    Planning to sell soon is definitely important. I just upgraded the siding on the back of my house. My contractor offered to do it with and without a permit. I could tell he preferred without, but he obviously didn't object when I insisted on getting a permit. Given all the delays the inspector caused, I can understand why he would have preferred not to get the permit. However, the last thing I want is for red flags to turn up when a hypothetical buyer's mortgage company did their due diligence in 6 months and tanked a sale. That would cost me much more than the permit... – conman Sep 24 at 15:16
  • Clarification request: do you say "illegal addition" here because it's actually against some civil law, or just because the insurance company wasn't notified about this, and potentially breaks a contract? – jv-dev Sep 24 at 18:25
9

Can you - probably, if you don't require any outside contractors.

Should you - likely not. Most places that expect you to file permits will fine you heavily from the earliest date they can figure you started the work on, to a tune that is FAR more than simply getting the permit in the first place would have cost you.

Local to me, one example is roughly $60-70 for the permit, but both retroactively and until a permit is issued once they do notice - $50/day.

5

That is a question for the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) i.e. Your local authority who issues the permits. Their requirements vary.

If you are asking "is evading the permit process worth it?", ask local contractors. They certainly would prefer not to pull permits if they don't have to.

Obviously towns are trying to make it "not worth it". In our town they will condemn the occupancy until you demolish the unpermitted work... and to add insult to injury, you must pull a permit to do the demolition. And then pull another permit for whatever new work is necessary to return the house to a habitable state.

2

I enclosed the patio of my previous house after we failed to sell it (was after the great real estate crash of 2009, when little real estate was moving). I went through the hassle of getting a permit, as well as a licensed electrician who could pull a electrical permit. It does indeed help avoid issues when trying to sell, as there's an official record as well as inspections.

The building permit for me was a percentage of the cost of materials. I had just placed the order with a local lumberyard so I knew my total. Since we were only building two walls, my costs were low and my permit was a whopping $10. They gave me the permit and I really only kept it in the window for the building inspection itself.

The electrician was pricey (about 30% of the project, given the low costs), but everything was up to code. The city had just updated a spec on pancake boxes for fans (caught the electrician off guard, but it was a simple fix with open walls) and mandated AFCI breakers on the new stuff.

What this does is to help insulate you against future liability. If there was a permit and inspections, everything was above board. It makes it much harder for a lawyer to come back and sue you, as you can pull permit documentation and inspections. Otherwise, you get to argue it was working fine for you up until you moved.

  • 1
    I'll add that permitting can protect the homeowner from bad contractors, too. In my state you can withhold final payment to the contractor until the job clears final inspection. – Matthew Leingang Sep 24 at 15:30
1

As others have stated, it's not always a good idea, but people get away with not getting them all the time.

As a general rule, if you're touching plumbing or electrical, I recommend checking with your local jurisdiction and getting one if they require it - and they most likely will - just to cover yourself when it comes to potential future insurance claims.

1

Can't speak to Minneapolis, but where I live the seller of a house signs a disclosure about non-permitted work. If you lie, and get caught, you may be very sorry. Depending on [many things] you can do non-permitted work, not lie, and the buyer will be happy anyway. But "many things".

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.