What is a building permit?
A building permit is a permit required for new construction or renovations to existing structures. Local municipalities issue building permits for work that could affect the public’s health or safety, if improperly performed.
How is a building permit obtained?
In order to obtain a building permit, certain information must be given to the local building official. Intermediate and final inspections may need to be performed by their inspectors to verify that the work was performed in accordance with applicable building codes. A building permit may be obtained by the owner or a licensed contractor after filling out a few forms and paying a small fee.
These common alterations and improvements usually require a building permit:
installation of a new roof;
adding or blocking off a door or window;
adding or relocating electrical outlets;
adding or relocating plumbing fixtures, such as showers, sinks or toilets; and
converting a garage or storage area to an air-conditioned, occupied area, or installation of central air-conditioning systems.
The burden of an unobtained permit is passed on to subsequent owners.
If, for instance, major alterations were made to a property without a permit, and the property was later bought and sold several times, the building official can force the current owner to obtain a permit and satisfy all code requirements. Previous owners are not held responsible for permits that were not obtained, and the current owner becomes solely responsible for compliance.
Small violations usually are not detected by the local building department, as they are quite busy and don’t actively pry into peoples’ homes or buildings. Building owners often add electrical outlets and light fixtures, or convert a garage into an extra bedroom without a permit.
Avoid permit issues by doing research.
Before purchasing a commercial property, check if any additions or alterations to the property were made after the original construction. You can be at risk if you do not check with the building department regarding past and current building activity.