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Can I Build an Addition Without A Permit?

[BLOG] Published: 2021-09-13 - Updated: 2021-09-24

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Can I Build an Addition Without A Permit? 

The short answer is no. You need a permit when building an addition to an existing structure. Attempting to build an addition without a proper permit may have some potential consequences (Better Homes & Gardens, 2012). Before I mention the consequences, you could face when you circumvent your jurisdiction’s permit process, let us first understand why building permits exit. 

For obvious reasons, building permits are there to ensure there’s compliance to the minimum standards for both safety and local building codes. However, some homeowners get tempted to build without a permit.

Common Reasons Homeowners Remodel Without Permits

  • Save time – The permit process may sometimes be complicated and time-consuming. For this reason, some remodelers may take the risk to build an addition without a permit to avoid delays.
  • Convenience – Sometimes, the permit process can sound like a hassle, forcing some homeowners to bypass it. 
  • Save money – Considering that nobody likes paying extra money, homeowners or contractors may choose to avoid remodeling permits that cost too much.

What Happens If I Build an Addition Without A Permit?

Perhaps your remodeler, handyman, or builder, said that the work could be done a little cheaper and quicker by skipping the permit process. Or maybe you’re looking to build an addition yourself and think nobody will find out about your unpermitted project (Wrigley, 2012). After all, the choice is yours! But what happens if you get caught without a valid building permit? 

Here are potential risks of building an addition without a permit:

Compromise Your Safety 

If you decide to build an addition without a permit, chances are high that you’re posing a very real safety risk to your family. Tragedies are likely to happen as a building constructed without a permit is never inspected for fire escapes, concrete quality, faults, and other building codes like wiring and plumbing. 

ProTip Takeaway: You should probably get a permit because it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Shoddy work

Permits are put in place not only to ensure compliance with local building codes but also to protect homeowners from quacks. If you fail to pull appropriate building permits, you’re likely to face serious consequences such as unstable walls, window issues, electrical malfunctions, and poorly plumbed buildings. In simple words, acquiring an appropriate permit could protect you from sinking your money into a remodeling project and getting substandard work in return.

ProTip Takeaway: Make sure the remodeler you choose to handle your project is knowledgeable on the permitting process.

Low Resale value 

You may be the luckiest person on earth to get away, but guess what happens sooner or later when you decide to sell your home with unpermitted work? 

As a seller, you will be required by law to fill out a form on which you must disclose to potential buyers any unpermitted work to the home. If you fail to disclose anything in the disclosure package, experienced buyers can later sue you in a court of law and leave you paying hefty fees in damages.

Additionally, you’ll also be forced to apply for a building permit retroactively, which is going to lower the selling price of your home.

Difficulty selling your property

A well-informed buyer who is looking to purchase a house that has previously been remodeled will know to ask if you built an addition with a valid permit. If it happens that you bypassed the permitting process, that could be enough to scare off the potential buyer, denying you an opportunity to unload your property. 

ProTip Takeaway: Selling your home without disclosing all the unpermitted work, exposes you to the serious risk of a lawsuit. 

The appraiser will undervalue your home

If you’re looking to sell your home and the appraiser fails to include a non-permitted addition in the total value, your property will obviously appraise for much less. For instance, if you’re selling at $300 per square foot and the appraiser ignores 100 square feet which were not permitted, you could end up incurring a huge loss of up to $30,000.

Difficulty securing a loan

Take a scenario where you want to refinance your home mortgage. You’ll need to get an appraiser to value your property. If the appraiser finds that you constructed an addition without a permit, a bank might decline to offer you a loan for your house's value or even disqualify you completely. 

Similarly, if you buy a property with major unpermitted work and your mortgage lender realizes after the deal is closed, they could ask you to immediately repay the loan.

Tax fees

Building an addition by not pulling a permit, can be regarded as an attempt to avoid paying land rates or property taxes. Until the official tax records show an accurate statement of your property, you may face tax fees and other fines associated with the unpermitted work.

Demolishing the project

The worst-case scenario is when city officials order for demolition of a portion of the remodeled building or whole unpermitted project. Demolishing a house that has work done without a permit, could mean wasted materials and money that could have been easily saved if you initially got the permitting process done correctly.

Wasted time

As mentioned before, permitting or inspection can sometimes be a long process. If you are in a hurry to get your project completed, you can be tempted to start your remodel without a valid permit. And what happens if the city orders you to halt construction? Obviously, your remodeling project might take a lot more time than estimated. And in the worst-case scenario, you could be forced to tear out the new work so that it be redesigned and inspected. In either case, you end up with nothing to show for all the time you spent.

 City Penalties and Fines

The city will penalize you if they find your house has unpermitted addition. And it's not a cheap fine either. In most cases, fines for building an addition without a permit, go up to $500 a day.

If they discover a contractor is involved, both the contractor and the homeowner can be arrested and penalized for a similar violation. 

ProTip Takeaway: Paying for permits upfront will protect you from city fines and penalties.

Voids your homeowner’s insurance

All might be fine until damage occurs to that unpermitted work in your home. Your lack of valid building permits is all your homeowner’s insurance company needs to deny you all the benefits you'd otherwise be entitled to. Imagine if your new unpermitted wiring leads to a house fire, causing damages up to thousands of dollars.

Likewise, if someone gets injured during remodeling work for which you never pulled permits, the insurance policy may not cover the liability.

Expensive to Obtain A Permit for A Completed Project 

Sometimes, homeowners can pull out an “as-built” permit, especially if a home addition project was completed without a valid construction permit. A “built” permit can cost thousands of dollars as it involves hiring a professional to redesign the plans, which the relevant city bodies must review and give approval. 

ProTip Takeaway: It’s a good idea to check that any home additions were properly permitted before you acquire a home, especially if you’re planning to sell the property in the future.

How do Authorities Know if I Don’t Have a valid Permit?

Sometimes neighbors can report unpermitted home addition, especially if your project blocks their view.

How much does it cost to Obtain a Home Addition Permit?

In general, a home addition permit cost ranges between $450 to $700 depending on the project. Below are common types of home additions that require a building permit:

  • Expanding the space in the kitchen
  • Expanding or adding a bathroom
  • Adding another floor
  • Finishing an attic
  • Adding a living room or bedroom
  • Enclosing a garage
  • Constructing or adding an in-law suite
  • Retaining walls
  • Adding verandahs
  • Fencing
  • Building sheds and carports

Type of Permit

Average Cost ($)

Building a House

1,200 - 2,000

Roofing

255 - 500

Bathroom

175 - 2,000

Fence

20 - 60

Shed Building

100 - 1,000

Kitchen 

150 - 900

Pergola

20 - 150

HVAC

250 - 400

Enclosing a garage

1,200 - 1,500

Deck

225 - 500

 

Are You Ready For Your Home Addition Project?

If you’re ready to build an addition the right way, consider hiring a professional remodeler or contractor who will manage all your remodeling permits.

Wondering where to find a reputable contractor? Look no further than at Smart Remodel LLC. At Smart Remodel, we have dedicated ourselves to remodeling homes in Houston and neighboring areas. If you are ready to remodel or renovate your home for the better, call us today on 832-800-8889 for inquiries.









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