Hypothetically, let's say you decide to do some indoor renovations but not get a permit and you know the work requires permit (e.g. electrical, framing, etc). Also, you lower the blinds on all windows, keep the outside of the house intact, and do not accumulate trash, IOW, you are as clandestine as you can be.

Let's say the building police (what I like to call them) drive around or someone tips them (maybe neighbors over noise) that there is suspicious construction going on but, from the outside they can't prove you are doing anything cause you have sealed the inside visually.

In the U.S., is there any way for the building inspectors to obtain a search warrant to forcibly check what is going on inside?

Disclaimer: This is not me. I am just wondering about a hypothetical scenario.

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    Legal questions are off-topic here, but if your hypothetical friend is in the US, they have rights under the Fourth Amendment – Niall C. Feb 13 '13 at 5:30
  • Permits are maybe a couple hundred dollars at most, and electrical as well as other inspectors are not some evil enemy out to "get you". Inspectors are there to help you do the best safest job possible, they give advice, coach on situations and provide recommendations. The cost for permits and inspections is spare change when you are talking major renovations, construction and major electrical upgrades, so I don't understand why so many people have such gripes about doing it right. – maple_shaft Feb 13 '13 at 12:49
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    @Niall and Chris: consider reopening this question. It might get some interesting replies. If nothing else, highlight the need to do DIY projects properly. May also give us some good fotter for the Thursday chat. Just a thought, up to you guys. – shirlock homes Feb 13 '13 at 13:13
  • Agreed that this is an interesting question that is somewhat relevant even though it is off-topic. Maybe something we can chat about during PUT! – Steven Feb 13 '13 at 14:29
  • @maple_shaft, there are municipalities that are so strict that they do not allow the homeowner to do their own electrical and plumbing even though it is inspected. it is called trade union racketeering and, contrary to its intentions, what it does is cause ppl to do underground, unlicenced work as licensed tradesmen are prohibitively expensive. basically, when you make rules so strict, you are asking people to break them. if building codes were lax, like maybe in rural Kansas some place, more people would be compliant. so it is not as simple as you describe – amphibient Feb 13 '13 at 19:27

Laws and rules vary widely across the country. Most towns or counties have the right to inspect the interiors of dwellings for the purpose of tax assessment, health and safety conditions. Construction inspections fall into all these categories. Insurance companies may require inspections to assess their risk of loss. The purpose of most govt inspections is to assure that work is done to current standards and does not create a fire or health hazard to the occupants and surrounding properties. In my business, I have seen it all, dangerous wiring, leaky gas lines, sewer gas infiltration, unsafe woodstove and heater installations and substandard structural framing.

If a homewoner refuses to allow any such inspection requested for just cause, they may face fines, loss of insurance, stop work orders, loss/denial of occupancy permit and in extreme cases forced eviction by law enforcement.

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    +1 I'm struggling as to whether the Q is off topic, but this is a good answer. – bib Feb 13 '13 at 12:43
  • I agree, it's a little off topic, but highlights a question a lot of DIYers face all the time. Might be worth keeping open and see what kind of comments and answers come out. – shirlock homes Feb 13 '13 at 13:06

I would guess it would depend on your local laws. Here, they will mark a notice on site and may issue a fine. Then the burden will be on you to challenge the citation.

I don't think you're likely to get busted if you're quiet, clandestine, considerate of your neighbors and you keep a clean job site

  • Rule No. 1 on clandestine repairs, don't tick your neighbors off and don't do anything dangerous that results in a fire. At least that's what got the neighbor across the street in difficulties. Then you have a FINE time getting it all worked out... Especially when your Home Owner's Insurance Company finds out... Higher premiums or loss of insurance altogether. – Fiasco Labs Feb 13 '13 at 6:05

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