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  • Writer's pictureCommercial Property

What is the downside of purchasing a property that has had improvements performed without a Building

If you are purchasing a home or commercial property you should carefully check if any additions or improvements to the property were made after the original construction. If you don’t research the status of past and current Building Permit activity for the property with the local Building Department having jurisdiction for the property, you could be at risk if you purchase.

Local municipalities issue building permits for work that could affect the public’s health or safety if improperly performed. In order to obtain a permit, certain information must be provided to the local Building Official having jurisdiction. 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.

Plans and specifications prepared by an Architect or Professional Engineer describing new work or alterations are required for large projects where structural elements are involved or major electrical, air conditioning or plumbing systems are altered. Minor alterations may require a permit but usually do not require plans and specifications. The owner or a licensed contractor can obtain the permit by filling out a few forms and paying a small fee: The following common alterations or improvements require a building permit:


  • Making a structural addition

  • Installing a new roof

  • Blocking off or adding a door or window

  • Adding or relocating electrical outlets

  • Adding or relocating plumbing fixtures (sinks, toilets, showers)

  • Converting a garage or storage area to an air conditioned occupied space

  • Installing or replacing an air conditioning system

Many property owners and some contractors feel that they can make these changes without a permit; however, the local Building Official has the legal authority to require permits and impose penalties on a property owner and contractors for non-compliance. The problem doesn’t go away when the property is sold. The problem just gets transferred to the new owner.

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