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TLDR: I pulled a permit for my house, now the inspectors are looking for more things wrong with my house than the permit pertains to. I want them out. What are the repercussions to letting the permit expire? I plan to sell the house sometime in the future, but I don't believe I will have any issues with selling. I live in Clearwater, FL.

Originally pulled a permit to remodel a bathroom. Bathroom originally held the breaker box, so I rotated 180 to be with code. Had power company come out and kill power while I remodeled the breakers, then they claimed they would not return power unless I had it inspected. City inspector approved of my work, but said I needed to redo my home's wiring to come up to code (no grounds in any branch circuits) before he would sign off the rough-in.

Can the inspector even go looking for issues like this?

Now I've got all my walls torn off in my entire house down to studs. My scope-of-work at the permitting office still says "remodeling bathroom." I get the electrical all caught up and call the inspector -- I get a fill-in inspector because my regular inspector is on vacation. New inspector passes my electrical rough, then says he can also service my framing inspection after I update my scope-of-work with the permitting office. I explain to him I've done no work to the frame but he points out some draft points to the attic and says they need filled in (prevention of attic fire), again -

Can the inspector even go looking for issues?

So now I'm sitting with all my walls off, looking at getting 1) Framing inspections, 2) drywall inspections, and 3) final electrical inspections on all my wiring, and being asked to make it official in updating the scope-of-work. Kinda feel like I've been roped into some scheme...

So my final question is this: What happens if I just drop the permit? If I don't call out any more inspectors, just put my walls back up, and then someday somebody at the permitting office realizes my permit expired - what are the consequences? I live in Clearwater, FL.

  • Are you ever going to sell the house or your heirs ? You may want to get it done as not completed now you or they will have to bring it up to current code to be able to sell it later. Doesn’t seam like it would be that much to get it done correctly now. – Ed Beal Feb 27 at 21:51
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    I agree with Ed. The issues raised by the inspector seem pretty minor. If I were you I'd document all the corrections, improvements and that they were inspected and approved. This will help your resale value. Do it right. – George Anderson Feb 27 at 23:29
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    +1, but I'd like an answer to the first question: does rotating a load center bring every circuit in the whole house into the scope of new work even though there's no changes otherwise? – Mazura Feb 28 at 0:17
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    Shouldn't need to re-run all cables, you can just retrofit grounds. In fact I wouldnt re-run all cables because that will hale you into the 2014/17 requirements for everythingFCI. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 28 at 0:33
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    @TylerM that is awesome news. It sounds like first inspector was just covering his ass - not acting the ass. He has to point out fireblocking issues - which a lot of the time includes attaching a board or squeezing in some insulation into areas. Most cities make money doing inspections by pricing permits as a percentage of the work being done. You doing something yourself with low cost materials - they make nothing. That is the $$$ game. Please please read over the advice here again before doing more permit work - only get permits when you need to, that's another question though. – DMoore Mar 5 at 17:19
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+100

Harper and Ed are right. Good answers.

But Inspectors are kings. You were the jackass (no offense as I think all of us including me were the jackass to a "overzealous" inspector).

Here is the deal there are generally no rules unless you are in a city big enough that has multiple head inspectors. I doubt Clearwater fits that - I am sure there is one person in charge of residential permits there.

Here are two things that you didn't think of:

  1. When you get a permit NEVER EVER EVER DO SOMETHING ELSE IN THE HOUSE THAT EVEN SEEMS LIKE IT COULD NEED A PERMIT IN THE LOOSEST SENSE - AND DEFINITELY DON"T MAKE IT VISIBLE. You did the worst thing you could do - open up walls you are not doing permit work on. Here is the deal the city could have a rule that if the inspector sees it, make you pull a permit. Or the inspector could just be a jerk and spinning you around in circles. If I pull a permit for a kitchen - I make my guys hide the new toilet and sink we bought for the bathroom. No damn way I am pulling a permit for switching out a toilet. But on the other hand if inspector saw this stuff I would totally be expecting him to make me pull permit. When you do work like this often, there are expectations.

  2. You didn't use any "preferred" workers. Not saying this applies to you. But most cities I work in now have plumbers, electricians, hvac, whatever and it sure seems that things get OK'ed way quicker if you use one of the "preferred" guys. You don't use them, sure if you do good work it gets cleared. But it takes longer, there are more steps, inspectors often find "other things needing a permit", and simple things that you can remedy on the spot often take another visit. It's the game.

What can you do:

  1. Plead ignorance.

  2. Have an honest conversation with the inspector. Just ask the guy what he wants done on your part, what permits he wants you to pull and so on. Just lay it on the table. If you don't have money for some things tell him. You cannot bargain with this guy if you don't understand the worst case scenario. If you can negotiate you need to know what "the worst" looks like. You have to understand there is no way out of this. You can delay things but if you just stop communication the city may fine you if you do not let them see your house - and you for sure will never be able to sell house. You let this go and just finish up... you will be opening up every wall in your house and pulling permits for stuff you never touched. Honestly the only way you can get lucky is this inspector gets a new job and you fix things up before new inspector takes a look - are you banking on that?

Also expect to have good answers to questions. You have walls open? Why? If you aren't changing the walls you need to have a good reason why they are open - drywall was damaged or torn down wallpaper that didn't come off well (examples). You might be required to pass a finish inspection where they make sure you use correct wall covering and it is secured correctly - drywall inspection.

JUST IN CASE YOU REALLY HAVE OTHER STUFF YOU WANT TO DO (not saying you should do this but if you do..) ONLY CHANGE THINGS IN THE WALLS RIGHT BEFORE PUTTING UP THE DRYWALL. Do not change framing, plumbing, electric, whatever or even look like you are thinking about it.

Hot tub time machine... Go back to that day at the permit office. Pull that permit to turn your box right. Done. That's all you needed. You already had a finished bathroom. If you are 100% secure in your ability to redo it correctly the inspector is not helping this equation. You should have did the original work, got it checked, and got the city out of your house.

Fines: There isn't an answer for this because it depends on city, inspector, scope and just whatever. Most likely you get some small code fines. This could be in conjunction with a "stop work order" or the "stop work order" could come first to push you to getting the permits. If you do work on your house while being issued a "stop work order" you might as well build a funnel to your bank account to the city. You will get a big old sticker or paper put on the front door/window announcing to the entire community that things aren't right. This is probably as severe as your situation could get. There is always a chance that the city could deny your CO and boot you from your house but that would really be pushing boundries for person already living there.

The most likely outcome is the inspectors just forget about you. As long as you don't keep calling them back, they won't show up. Your permit will expire and they will forget about you. Without you acting like a complete ass to them there isn't a reason to "fine"... but they can - I am sure there is some sort of code violation you are committing, aren't we all. If you do get fined you have to pay it. They will just start mounting fees on fees and they could put a lien on your house - this is severe and doesn't happen often.

Selling the house:

  1. Scenario #1 - dumb city, dumb inspector (buyer), and house performs great for new home owner. You could possibly sell it and be off the hook. Very very low chance.

  2. Scenario #2 - dumb city, smart inspector... He pulls recent permits. Sees that this one never passes final. Calls city on it. City sends inspector out to your house and city denies CO until permits are pulled for past work. City will make you open up every wall. The house you just got ready for market is now in shambles, you are out thousands.

  3. Scenario #3 - dumb city, smart inspector... He pulls recent permits, client decides your house not worth gamble. Now your agent has to tell every potential buyer that the house still has an open permit and work that the city never signed off on or agent can/will lose license. Price of your house plummets.

  4. Scenario #4 - smart city. A lot of cities plug into real estate databases with house spec sheets they maintain. So if you add a bathroom without telling city, city will see the extra bathroom on MLS, then they will have inspectors pay you a visit. Same thing flagging houses without final inspections. No idea if Clearwater does this but a lot of cities do. You will open wall and yada yada yada.

  5. Scenario #5 - dumb city, dumb inspector, house has issues. Home owner sues you and your agents. They can probably attribute any issue other than roof and shingles to you possibly doing work. (not saying they would ever collect because that would require them to prove knowing negligence. but this could require retaining a lawyer and court appearances.)

What are your options:

  1. Finish up and work with inspector. You can probably space this out pretty far - most permits give you a year. And if you are pulling for more stuff your clock starts over when you pull new things.

  2. If you will be in the house a while, try to let permit slide. Hope inspector moves on. Very easy to play dumb with new inspector and 99% of the time new inspector could care less about old inspector's unfinished stuff - more crap work for him. The you just pull a very simple permit, something kind of pertaining to the stuff that was unfinished from previous.... boom you got a final as far as city is concerned (not saying I have done this but it works). You run the chance of that inspector never leaving and putting you in an odd position when trying to sell house.

  3. Sell house to a "partner". Given that the work you do is good and no safety issues you can in good mind sell to a partner, who can then re-sell without fear of city coming in about permit. Almost zero chance a city makes a new home owner finish an old permit - it makes the city look terrible. It can happen if the city feels you two are in cahoots. I have never done this, I have seen it done many many times and have bought houses like this.

I don't know everything going on but I have to think option 1 is the easiest right?

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  • Thank you for the information. I definitely learned my lesson on "How to properly pull a permit and keep everything else hush-hush." I noticed in your answer you mention fines, and no possible way to sell the house ... could you elaborate on that part for me? Particularly, what happens if I don't pay the fines, and what happens if I do pay the fines then do no re-work? – Tyler M Mar 4 at 14:06
  • Also you need to figure out if inspector is just doing this because of fire code violations. Note that inspectors can lose their jobs if they don't follow up on this. The fire code stuff, albeit a bit wonky, is often very simple to remedy and costs little in materials. This could be his main beef. And yes if he sees a fire code violation he can bring it up outside of the permit work. – DMoore Mar 4 at 17:43
  • excellent answer, thank you – Tyler M Mar 4 at 18:29
  • Tell us how the ends up - however long it takes so I can give you your 100 back. – DMoore Mar 4 at 19:10
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Right off the bat, you won't get your power turned on. Because the power company won't turn on power until the panel flip is signed off.

Since you have already done the rewire, I would pull a permit for the rewire and then get that signed off on. I personally think you took your life in your hands by doing the rewire without a permit for that.

The inspector suggesting additional work does not have the effect of pulling a permit for that work.

It sounds like the inspector is ever pressuring you to increase the scope of the project. I agree, this is like one of those lottery/Nigerian Prince scams, everything you do, the inspector will suggest another thing to add to the scope of work. With the Nierian Prince scam, they tend to bump your next payment by about 2.5 times your last payment, and that sounds like this. Going from a panel flip to blowing out all your drywall is a huge leap.

The only way out is to use the words "no", "not funded", "not this year", "outside project scope" and "I don't have a permit for that".

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  • I got a partial approval on the panel and 2 bedrooms, so I got the electric turned on, and it's been a hassle getting the rest of the rough-in approved. Just been living out of the two bedrooms for a few months now. I'm deflated because I thought the electric would be the end-all-be-all then I can move on with my life - little did i know this NIgerian Prince would be telling me, "Oh hey since you've got these walls off to do the electric like I said, why don't we take a gander at those frames there too hmmmmm?" I'll try saying "no" and seeing how far I can get with that, though – Tyler M Feb 28 at 1:18
  • Actually, sorry to put a question within these comments - but CAN an inspector require me to make changes on something I haven't touched? For example, the hole leading from inbetween the studs to the attic - that was already there and I didn't touch anything around it. Can the inspector require that I update it just because he saw it? It just feels like it's pandora's box and I'm going to be stuck in an endless loop of outdated code violations if that's the case. – Tyler M Feb 28 at 1:26
  • There is a slim chance this inspector is trying to be nice and knows he can't sign off the house in this condition. Some inspectors have to tell city about open walls and things like that. Not saying that is the case but open walls are just WOW. I have delayed inspectors when opening walls, new drywall, mud it, primer, paint... you smell paint... yea we just gave that baby a fresh coat. – DMoore Mar 4 at 6:34
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I would complete the work since you plan to sell. A extra bath is worth 10+ k in my area depending on the home and the build it could be much more. I have also had trouble flipping a single bath house, I felt the extra bath would not pay , not only did it pay I ended up having 3 offers above asking and sold the 2nd day after resisting the only change was 2 weeks and a modest full bath off the master with the original walk through door walled off. If you do not get a sign off you may not be able to advertise it as 2 or 3 ,,, and if the same as my area if you do not finish within a year all those fees and inspections start over.

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  • They won't let him sell with an open permit. Unless the city is clueless they will be out at his house with a big sticker for his front window "stop work order". Even if they are clueless... if he doesn't disclose the open permit the buyer can sue. Also if I inspect a house - not all inspectors do this - the first thing I do is call city for open permits and anything from last 10 years. Now once an inspector finds the open permit by law it has to be disclosed to everyone looking at house. Legality went from home owner to broker. – DMoore Mar 4 at 6:29
  • I have not had an inspector pull a history on permits, but I have gotten houses well below market (short) because an addition was not permitted. I did have to open walls for inspections and pay the fees but in my case the inspector passed the previous work. I had fixed some electrical that would not have passed and added a plumbing vent and exhaust fan. So not having a permit or doing work without can affect the value of the home. I agree with Dmoore never leave work open that requires a permit. Remodeling and redecorating have a big affect on what is required. – Ed Beal Mar 4 at 15:09

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