Primarily insurance. Let's say you install wiring in the house, and it is
not up to code, and there is no permit to show it was done properly. Then
your house burns down and the fire is traced to that wiring. You'll be hard
pressed to get an insurance company to pay for the damages. Another
potential pit fall is selling the home. It's possible the lack of a permit
could hold up the sale.
I know where you are coming from. I was contemplating not getting permits
for my pool install. Seeing some mistakes that were made, and then were
caught by the inspectors, gives me a sweet peace of mind. Get the permits,
it's worth it.
Not to mention safety, liability, etc. What if your kid's friend is
electrocuted in your home during a slumber party because you didn't use
a GFCI outlet as required, or it was wired improperly? Or your basement
is flooded because of incorrect plumbing from the bathroom above?
Bathrooms and kitchens are the places you definitely want to go
*strictly* by the book, and fulfill all the local code requirements.
For instance, did you know that a ceiling light fixture over a shower
area typically must be enclosed (no bulb exposed).
How much is a good night's sleep worth to you?
But you can follow the codes and not get a permit. Or you can get a permit
and have shoddy work because the inspector never came around.
You can tell all the stories you want, but not have the same impact as my
personal experience. In my last house, I remodeled the kitchen, installed
100A service (there was electrical inspection of the panel by the electric
company), replaced some of the plumbing, installed fences, replaced windows,
made holes in the wall for airconditioning, put on a new roof, removed
garage and changed it to a basement room, and probably a few things I
Never had a permit. Never had an inspection. Never had a question from my
insurance company. Never had a question when I sold the house. Never had a
neighbor squeal as they all did the same things over time.
In my present house I got a permit for a new roof. I paid $25, but never saw
an inspector. All I have is a receipt.
For outside work, I'd get the permit just in case a sleazy neighbor rats you
out. Inside, none of anyone's business what you do, IMO. Most codes are
for legitimate reasons and should be followed for your safety.
A bunch of questions hidden here:
*1: What is the theoretical purpose of producing a building/electrical code?
*2: Why should you follow it?
*3: What is the theoretical justification for requiring a building permit?
*4: Why should you get one?
Since OP asked:
"I know they are legally necessary, but why? What is the benefit of
obtaining a permit when I renovate the interior of my home?"
I assume that he means either 3 or 4,
The answer to 4 is easy:
The local government will be unreasonably punitive if it finds out that
you have failed to comply with it's regulations.
The answers to 3 include the desire to compel you to meet code,
and the desire to tax you, both FOR the right to make changes to
your dwelling, and ON the improvements. Other justifications
spring up in multitudes as people try to explain why they're doing
something that they never really thought much about.
See, I always thought that there would be a problem with insurance
pay-out if there was not a permit taken out, but I called my insurance
company and they said that this was not true. The policy would pay
out even if the homeowner completed work without permit.
Now.....I don't have that in writing from them either.........
Our code (Ontario, Canada) is restrictive enough that you are supposed
to get a permit to change an old fixture or switch for a new one. Now
having seen what can happen in DIY installations, I guess I can
understand -- but for anyone who knows what they're doing
electrically, it seems a bit overboard.
Mr Fixit eh
Permits is the way your jurisdiction funds it's building department. For that
you get an inspection or two.
Mainly you get the permit so if one of your neighbors "rats you out" you will
"Insurance" is bullshit. The "inspection" is so minimal that thwere is no
aassurance that you actually did the work right. Insurance companied know that.
Your rate might change because of specific additions you add (like a pool) but
that is really just a call to your agent. If your insurance company is going to
screw you, they are going to screw you no matter what. Get a better insurance
Sometimes the inspector barely even gets out of his car. It is not his fault,
they are expected to do between 20 and 40 a day depending on where you live and
how much construction is going on there. I always read that you should "ask the
inspector". In most places the answer you get is "I am an inspector, not an
instructor". Maybe if your wife is wearing "Daisy Dukes" and a wet T shirt she
can get a conversation started but usually the inspector is too damned busy to
say more than yes or no. I had 5 inspections on my pool, I was there every day,
I actually saw the inspector twice. The other times I think he didn't even walk
BTW don't be shocked when you see how much permits cost. A shed permit is $145
in my county and $40 more if you want a light in it. If you are just setting a
prebuilt shed it is "only" $100.
While the technical aspects are always cited, the big motivation is
protecting the building trades and limiting the housing supply, which puts
and entire lucrative industry under the control of local politicians. In
many areas the tax revenue is important. Zoning type controls are another
The only reason you have "codes" applied to buildings and not automobiles
or food or any number of things, is merely the fact that the buildings are
fixed to a location, making them vulnerable to this.
No codes for automobiles? Try NHTSA Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards:
EPA emissions regs: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/ld-hwy.htm#regs for a start.
Food? Try the FDA (FOOD and Drug Admin) http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/list.html
Electrical appliances and almost every manufactured product? Try UL, ASTM,
Most of the other answers in this thread touch on the truth. You
cannot get a permit if the plans are sub par, and many times home
made plans must be submitted to an engineer or architect for
approval before the permit is issued. So permits will rule out some
The city or county bases its property taxes on property valuation
and the permit helps to insure that the additional value of your
improvements are duly noted.
I have done a lot of unpermitted improvements to my property, I hope the permit
police aren't watching this NG.
One thing was certain, the tax assessor found them pretty quick and I did pay
my taxes on them. He has better drawings of my house than I do. The last time
when I did get a permit I used the tax assessor's drawings for the starting
point of my plans and I used his plot plan. The last plans of my house on file
are the current configuration
I guess that means I am legal now ;-)
They just want to be paid for your improvements. It is a tax.
If it was really a service you would be involved with plan review and the
inspector would talk to you. In reality, plan review is a joke and the
inspector may not even show up. If you do get an inspection, don't expect the
guy to be there more than a minute or two. He may have 40 to do that day,
spread across a 50 mile wide county.
On Wed, 15 Sep 2004 03:31:30 GMT, "George E. Cawthon"
When we lived in NJ the code official in the town our town
'surrounded' (like in the hole of a doughnut) spent most of his time
hanging out in local hardware, lumber, and DIY business looking for
residents buying materials they would probably use to make home
improvements - the rest of the time he spent walking through the town
"eye balling" homes for any visible signs of improvements. We had
friends who moved into a colonial style house with an unfinished
attic, but it had dormers in the roof - they put curtains on the
windows and a table with a lamp on it in front of each window. Within
a week there was a knock on the door and the code official was there
asking about their failure to obtain a permit to finish the unfinished
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