Here's a silly question... so why would you pay for a permit and/or
inspector to inspect work you do inside your home? Before someone
scolds me keep this in mind, I am a first time homeowner and I have
only been living in my home for a few months. What types of things
require permits or inspectors? I recently painted some walls, replaced
a toilet, and added a light fixture outside my garage. I have other
things on my agenda for the next few years and I can't see why I would
pay someone to inspect my work. With regards to plumbing, if you don't
do it right you get immediate notification in the form of a leak. The
electrical stuff seems pretty trivial to me since I am an electrical
engineer with a masters degree. Although I must admit to having to
look up the correct wire gauge for the spotlight I added outside my
garage. A follow up question would be what if the previous owner did
something without getting a permit or getting the work inspected?
Would I be responsible for paying for those things?
If you have that type of coverage Tony, you really ought to
think about going with a different company. If your kid
starts a fire in his bedroom, you are covered, if you do
something stupid and start a fire with gasoline, you are
covered. Regardless of what stupid thing you do you should
be covered. Besides, they will probably never find the
cause and they couldn't blame you if they don't know who did it.
if it was something done before you bought the house, the insurance company
should have sent an inspector over when you applied for coverage. they
should have told you if there is any situation(s) they have a problem with.
Thanks guys, I wouldn't put anything past the insurance companies.
Maybe they will pay, maybe they won't but I'm not really willing to
take the chance. It never hurts to have a second pair of eyes.
However, I wonder how someone would be able to tell the difference
between a newly installed charcoaled electrical addition and an old
charcoaled electrical addition. They would have to send a super
inspector at the time I bought the house to check if every wire burried
behind drywall is up to code. My insurance company basically sent
someone over to check that the property really exsisted and to check
the distance to the nearest fire hydrant.
Recently Romex wire changed the sheath color depending on the wire
gauge. So if you were in a ten year old house full of standard ol'
white Romex cables and one pretty new yellow romex cable burned down
the house they have a clue where to start looking. Also if they find
anything you did without permit it sets precedent that you do
electrical work in your home and don't necessarily get a permit. I've
seen an insurance company use this logic in court on a case where a
large plant was destroyed by fire.
Even with that said I have never heard a verifiable case of homeowners
insurance denying coverage for even a stupid mistake.
I am a firefighter and during the mid eighties I was called to testify
in just such a case. I wish I could remember the name of the insurance
company and the exact date but alas I cannot. It was admittedly an
extreme example but the homeowner had refinished his basement and for
his electrical outlets he had used one inch deep communications boxes
and the replacement only two wire outlets. The fire actually originated
at a box were a freezer was plugged in using an adapter. The basement
was finished with paneling fastened directly to the studs which made a
very fast and very hot fire. In spite of those conditions we made a dam
good stop and held the fire to the basement level. The only damage
above other than some minor smoke was from the process of searching for
hidden fire by opening up the walls behind the base boards to check for
extension. The basement and contents were a total loss and much of the
first floor's structural support had to be rebuilt. The home owners
problems with his insurance carrier began with their review of the fire
cause and origin report from the county fire marshal's office. They
then sent an investigator of their own and declined the claim. The
insurance company called several firefighters to testify but we never
got to do so. The judge refused to let it go to trial once the
plaintiff home owner admitted to having done the electrical work without
a permit and his attorney could not offer an alternative explanation of
the cause of the fire. The judge said that it was a legal absurdity to
attempt to collect an insurance award for the consequences of your own
unlawful act. I lost a mornings work but I got a new uniform out of the
Most areas do not need permits to paint, change a light fixture, replace a
toilet, that type of thing.
Any changes or additions to wiring, or plumbing probably need a permit. Any
stuctural work to the home will most likely need a permit. New windows,
roof, furnace in our area need a permit.
It is kind of a mixed blessing. If you do a upgrade to your house that needs
a permit, and you do, the liability falls to the inspections office when
they sigh off and ok the work. If you don't get and inspection, and your
house burns down from a poor wiring job, or bad furnace install, good luck
collecting insurance! The liability just fell on you!
Many fear that it tips of the city to raise your taxes, it may. I also know
of many homes that have had major remodels, additions put on, and the city
tax dept never paid any attention!
Pull a permit, CYA!
I am afraid that you are mistaken about the permit authority
assuming liability. They assume no liability whatsoever.
As a previous poster said, your insurance will still cover you if
you do something stupid. They won't cover you if you do something
that is intended to defraud them, but mistakes are still covered,
after all, isn't that the definition of accident?
So to summarize, pulling a permit transfers NO liability to the
city, county, etc.
My understanding is that insurance MAY not cover any damage due to
un-permitted work. Say you install an electrical circuit improperly,
and it starts a fire. Then, perhaps coverage would be denied. Another
example, say you install an electrical circuit improperly, and your
drunk guest falls asleep with a cigarette and starts a fire. You would
Among all my friends who do electrical work around their homes, I do
not know anyone who would ever get permits for simple eletrical work.
We just got finished with a house that the homeowner was redoing his
own roof. No permit, nothing. He tore off the roof, felt and
flashing down to the decking, THEN called for materials to be delivered!
Five days of rain later, the materials were delivered to the
jobsite, but not before 68,000 bucks worth of damage to the interior
of the house.
Like I said, we just finished up,... and picked up our final check
from his insurance company, minus his 2500.00 deductable which he
paid. I have done many jobs like this and have never seen an
insurance adjuster flinch at paying a claim. We had a job where a
house burned down due to an overloaded outlet. (12 items plugged
into a dual receptacle, including a microwave) The adjuster
listened to the homeowner talk about the cause of the fire and how
he had learned a valuable lesson, etc. Insurance paid for
everything except the deductable.
Shall I go on?
Hook a lot of items up to a light-duty extension cord and the cord
itself can overheat even though the circuit isn't up to the breaker's
Have a lot of items plugged into a multi-outlet tap and the weight of
the cords can pull it part-way out of the wall, reducing the size of the
connection and making the outlet overheat.
Could just be a cheap breaker panel with breakers that don't trip when
they should. Do a google search on breakers and you'll find references
to brands known to have that problem -- I've seen a 15A breaker not trip
when carrying more than 20A load.
firstname.lastname@example.org is Joshua Putnam
The safety department at IBM has a show-and-tell every year in the Research
division. They had disassembled an outlet strip with a massive power cord
to show the inside. Each outlet was connected to the previous one with
#22 wire. Needless to say, the outlet strip was half melted. The power
cord was #14 and had a 15 amp circuit breaker on the strip.
"If you see one of these outlet strips in a lab, throw it away immediately
and come get a replacement from the stock room." The new ones are bright
yellow and use #12 wire throughout.
They also ding you if they find any outlet strip being used for more than
a few weeks. You're supposed to call maintenance and have real outlets
installed. Extension cords are not permitted at all.
Where I live, one can do any plumbing and electrical without permits (may
require inspection if reconnection of service is needed) for ones own
proerty if residential.One has to be a licensed electrician to do work as
the primary person doing the work for others or any commercial work. Still
no permit required unless reconnection of service (or some major remodels,
but that is covered under building permits)
I have know other locations in other states requireing a licensed
electrician to do the work if to be covered under insurance.
You probably wouldn't need a permit for most home repairs, but home
modifications might need permits. Some reasons for permits: 1. to make sure
the contractor has done the work properly. 2. Make sure the modifications
are safe. 3. Insurance companies are not in business to hand out money. If
they discover you've modified your home without permits, and/or not up to
code, you might be denied your claim. Remember, your house plans might be on
file with your building agency and the insurance co. has access to them.
Electrical circuitry in a home is not complicated, but the codes are not
intuitive, they can be tricky, and your masters degree won't help you that
much. That's the reason for getting permits---to make sure the job is done
Check with your inspector to find out what you need permits for and for what
work has been done in the past. They would probably want the work done to
code. The building agencies that I've dealt with have been reasonable in
Example- I purchased a home where the original homeowner hired a hack to
install a 6' patio door. The header was undersized and was resting on only one
jack stud on one side of the door, and toenailed into an original stud on the
But this is relevant only if it can be undeniably determined that your
un-permitted, un-inspected work was indeed the cause of the loss.
There are certian tell-tale signs which can indicate very easily that a
handy-homeowner or a hack or a professional did some added work.
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