Suppose someone decided to build a house without getting the required permits. What are the possible consequences?

I'm not talking about slipshod workmanship, or ignoring safety of structure, fire, and sewage. I'm talking about doing good quality work that generally meets or exceeds code requirements, but without going through the "proper channels".

(I'm sure you'll want more context; ask and I'll edit later.)

  • 4
    I've heard everything from being sued to demolish the building to nothing happening at all. It probably depends on the locality, how litigious they are, and how egregious the code violation is. TL;DR: more context... you've piqued our curiousity.
    – Niall C.
    Nov 8 '10 at 6:06
  • 2
    Yup. It varies greatly. In my specific county in the US for example, sections of the house can be "red tagged" which requires action to be taken before selling the house or letting too much time pass by.
    – Mike B
    Nov 8 '10 at 17:03
  • 2
    In my neck of the woods, the Town will not issue a occupancy permit and forbid anyone living in the structure. Add to that the fines. The power company won't hook up a permanent service without a Master Electrician permit on location. Way too many ills shall befall you if you don't follow the rules. Get the permits and save yourself a lot of headaches. Nov 10 '10 at 7:12
  • 1
    Several Follies in the surrounding neighborhoods. Partially built unroofed garages, unfinished patio overhangs that got cease and desist orders after the owners had paid thousands putting in foundations, framing, exposing structure for tie-in. Locally, you seemingly aren't required to tear it down, but you can't get a permit to finish and probably need a permit to tear it down. It also cannot be covered by insurance so property contained isn't insured. Sep 15 '15 at 21:00
  • Don't you mean - What are the consequences of building without a permit if i get caught?
    – Alaska Man
    Apr 29 '18 at 20:16

This wil depend on where exactly you live. There're many possible outcomes, including the following:

  • nothing bad happens
  • you can be fined
  • the house can be demolished and you'll have to pay for that
  • you'll be forced to go through the "proper channels" later
  • you'll face minor or major problems when you try to sell/lease/insure the house

Also don't forget that the codes can impose some limitations that are specific to your exact location. For example, the maximum height or pressure onto the ground could need approval from some certified state organization.

So if you ignore the procedure the following could happen. You will not know that you house will be limited in electric power or pressure onto the ground (since that data is not obviously available until you contact the organization responsible for that) and you'll only face problems when it is too late - so you will be unable to heat your house properly or it will excert too much pressure and collapse and even damage the surrounding buildings. Or your neighbours might file a lawsuit agains you because your house casts too dense shadow on their land.

The bottom line is - consult a qualified specialist in your location. Building without permit might be a Very Bad Idea™.

  • +1 for talking about limitations. For example, in my town we have limitations on where fences can be installed and how high they can be. If you install them without a permit, like a guy down the street from us did, and aren't correct on the parameters, the town will make you remove it and start over: $$$$. That is, it isn't just "your land do whatever you want on it".
    – Tommy
    Apr 26 '17 at 19:31

Just to add what others have said, the consequences can be extreme, or not. It would depend on many factors beyond your control. But don't think that just because you believe everything is up to code, that high quality work was done, that this will be enough.

Look at this from the point of view of the permit issuing authority, and the building inspector who would check to see that work was indeed done to code. One of the consequences of building with no permit is that no inspections were ever done. Can a building inspector go back and be sure that work WAS done to code? Sometimes, not without tearing things apart. And a building inspector will not be happy to see their time wasted. Do you want to make the person unhappy who must choose to pass on your work?

On top of that, a presumption might be that the person who could not be bothered to get the proper permits also might have skipped over something important.

The point is, do the work without the proper permits, and you risk creating a very irritated person, one who has the authority to freely order your fine piece of craftsmanship turned into a pile of rubble.


If your home insurance company finds out, you’re not covered for fire insurance...especially if it’s for something like installing a wood stove insert, etc.

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