While contemplating some electrical work (replacement of the breaker box), I called the city's inspection/permit department and asked them,
Q: Why should I get a permit?
A: Because it is required by (city ordinance).
Q: If I don't have a permit and something electrical goes wrong and my house burns down, will the fire department charge or cite me?
A: No, they don't do that. They put the fire out for free to keep the neighborhood from burning.
Q: Well, would the insurance company not pay a claim if it was not permitted or inspected?
A: No, they don't care. They just look for a loophole in coverage as a reason not to pay. Permits and/or inspection is not a requirement of any insurance that I know of.
Q: When I sell the house, is the home inspector or real estate company going to cause me any trouble?
A: No, they don't have any way to know if it needed a permit or inspection or not. Lots of houses are sold which are not code compliant.
Q: Is there anything else I should be concerned about?
A: Well, you would be out of compliance with (city code).
Me: Okay, thank you very much. You have helped a lot in deciding the right thing to do.
I have lots of experience doing electrical work, and it was done in a very safe manner. It never did explode or smoke, and the eventual house sale (years later) proceeded effortlessly.
A later project was to install a fireplace insert. At the time I was unfamiliar with natural gas appliances and plumbing, so I arranged for a permit and inspection for that house when installing a gas fireplace insert, work performed by an appropriate contractor, though I left the enclosure work for after inspection.
The fireplace contractor left the pressure test rig for about two weeks because that was how long it took the inspector to eventually show up. The inspector was hesitant to enter the living room. I urged him to come all the way in to give it a thorough inspection since I had little idea if it was a really good install or not. I let him borrow a flashlight so he could really get in there and see well.
He was about to sign off the paperwork, but I stopped him and asked if he wanted to look at the gas line going in the back of the fireplace and the vent tubing and chimney cap. He said "okay". We walked outside and again, I had to urge him to walk all the way to look at the pipe and gauge. I don't think he knew what he was doing because he did not understand what the gauge was showing, so I explained it to him. Then I asked about the chimney. He backed up enough to see it, but said it looked fine and he did not have a ladder anyway.
He told me the permit he was signing off was conditional in that I had to finish the surround.... As though I wanted the centerpiece of my living room to look unfinished....
The permit and inspection provided absolutely no value. For what it is worth.