Do I Really Need A Building Permit?
By acornhomei96041682, Apr 10 2019 01:41AM
So you're finally about to make those renevations to your house that you've been talking about for years just like our friend Larry! In fact, you might be as excited and eager as Larry who istelling anyone who will listen about his amazing new plans, even his grumpy next door neighbor, Jim. As Larry explain the work he'll be having done, Jim cuts him off mid sentence -- "Don't you need a permit for that?". Larry is at a loss for words because he had not even thought about a permit. Jim continued "You do know the consequences if you don't get one, right?". Feeling his face redden by the second as a wave of embarassment overcame him Larry shouted "Of course I'm going to get a permit!" before making up some excuse about needing to check if he left the oven on.
Truthfully, Larry doesn't know if he even needs a permit and if he does, he has know idea how to go about getting one. You may find yourself in a similar situation and thats okay! We're here to help you out and hopefully provide you with all of the information you'll need to avoid an embarssing situation like Larry.
Do I Need a Permit or Not?
Great question! Do you or do you not need a permit? As with most things in life, it depends! Lets start with projects that WILL require permit approval in the state of New Jersey.
Common home renovation projects that WILL require permit approval include:
- Aesthetic changes to the exterior, but siding & roofing have been excluded as of the Spring of 2018
- Structural changes
- Adding additional structures to the property
- Finishing basements and attics, increasing the taxable living space of your home
- Moving or adding electrical outlets &/or plumbing fixtures
- Converting garages to conditioned livings space
- Additions to a home
- Swimming pools & fences
- New electrical systems, including solar
Common home renovation projects that will NOT require permit approval include
- Painting the inside or outside of a home
- New kitchen cabinets
- Changing existing plumbing fixtures without relocation of the fixtures
- New fans and light switches
- Installing basic alarm systems
- New phone lines
- Installing new flooring
- Screening existing covered outdoor spaces
- Recoating driveways
Like real estate, all building codes and permit regulations are locally established. Each municipality sets their own standards, but they mostly conform to or at least try to follow the international standards. Exact codes will vary by state, county, and city or town so ALWAYS make sure to check with your town to see if you need a permit for your specific project.
Why Do Building Permits Exist?
Contrary to popular opinion, permits were not invented with the sole purpose of making your life more difficult (we can't speak for our friends at the DMV however). In fact, permits have been required for centuries! They were originally created to ensure safety for consumers, and ethics and quality of work of the contractors. This is still the basis for having building codes, and requiring builders, licensed contractors, and property owners to obtain approvals and live up to safety standards to ensure the wellbeing of the occupants. Some estimates put the average cost of obtaining a permit in the range of tens of dollars to hundreds or even thousands of dollars, pending the cost of the renovation. Permits also alert the local taxing authorities to property improvements, and potential tax increase opportunities also exist. So, this certainly makes permitting a significant source of income for local government. Codes also exist to help preserve the look of communities, and control what can be built, what it can look like, and what materials can be used.
How to Get a Building Permit
You've learned your project requires a building permit, now what? Well the proccess can actually be quite simple!
The exact process will differ from area to area, but will generally include:
- Obtaining the application online or in person at the building department
- Submitting detailed plans signed by the homeowner or a licensed Architect
- Paying the applicable fees are generally paid in advance
- Getting inspections as the project progresses & most importantly the final inspections after work is completed to obtain your C-of-O (Certificate of Occupancy)
The Dangers of Buying and Remodeling Properties without Permits
Work performed without permits, when they are required, is illegal. These illegal improvements can be catastrophic for property owners and cost a lot of money in penalties & fines. It doesn’t matter who performed the work, the responsibility and the liability is on the current owner of the property.
The potential penalties can include:
- Code violations
- Fines and daily interest penalties
- Liens against your property
- Inability to sell the property
- Seizure by eminent domain
- Inability to obtain financing, or withdrawal of loans made
Do not underestimate how severe these penalties can be. Some have faced liens of tens of thousands of dollars against their properties.
Please be safe and have your project done properly by a licensed Contractor!
This will save you a lot of headache & heartache – just do it the right way!
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