What to Do About Unpermitted Work Hidden in a Home

Posted by EdmontonRealEstate.ca Team on Monday, April 16th, 2018 at 9:27am.

Selling a Home With Unpermitted Work

Unpermitted work is often a headache for new homeowners when it is uncovered. Arising when home improvements are done without seeking proper permitting and documentation, unpermitted work may lie behind the walls of a home, making it hard for a home inspector to see indicators of this issue. A new homeowner who uncovers such a problem may then be responsible for such work if it continues to go unaddressed while they reside in a home and when they may decide to list a home for sale. Unpermitted work is a problem. What should homeowners who find unpermitted work do about it?

There are times when unpermitted work may need to be removed. However, it may be possible to get a permit after such work is performed or even have certain responsible parties cover the costs of unpermitted repairs. Learn about unpermitted work and options for Canadian homeowners today.

A Headache for Homeowners

Even though sellers should disclose any existence of unpermitted work, Canadian homeowners can be surprised to find that unpermitted repairs and upgrades have been performed in the past on a structure. Such work can make it difficult to proceed on large renovation projects requiring city approval and signatures. This leaves homeowners in the situation where they may have to retroactively get proper permits and it can be difficult to work with previous owners or to have enough patience to go through the process of getting the appropriate permits for unpermitted work.

Homeowners who find themselves in such a situation may need to spend time, pay additional money for engineering drawings, and experience delays when it comes to any projects currently underway or slated to be done. Some homeowners may find it helpful to attend free renovation seminars such as those offered by the Greater Vancouver Builders Association. For anyone considering a major upgrade, it is useful to know when permits are necessary prior to starting on a home renovation project.

The Reality of Unpermitted Work

Unfortunately, the reality is that many homeowners find that work was performed without the proper permits. This can happen with upgrades on older homes but may also occur with new construction, where the contractors responsible for getting the permits fail to do so. A homeowner may decide to not do anything about such work. However, this may make it harder to perform a renovation involving such an issue and would have to be fully disclosed to a future buyer.

Canadian Building Permits

Canadian homeowners should realize that their province has its own building codes. When it comes to any load-bearing structures, a building permit is often necessary. Removing or altering such structures without proper permits may endanger occupants. A permit is often required for projects that involve electrical work, repairs or alterations to existing plumbing or changes to heating systems or other installations.

When a permit is required, an individual often has to bring in project drawings to the municipal building permit office. Without appropriate permits, a homeowners may need to demolish the project or be forced to correct deficiencies. A property owner is the person ultimately responsible for having all necessary permits. At times, a contractor may be responsible for such an endeavor when clearly written up as part of the contract.

Avoid Taking Shortcuts

Homeowners can place themselves at risk for work that has not been performed to certain established standards and codes. The likelihood of safety hazards may be as much as six times more likely for unlicensed and unpermitted work. This increases the risk of injury for family, friends and those visiting a property and may make for a potential lawsuit for a homeowner.

Substandard work can cost homeowners. Homeowners can pay substantial fines. A fine may cost more than double that of any permitting fees. Homeowners looking to get permits after the completion of a project needs to have the work professionally inspected, repair any identified issues and then will be able to receive a permit. An inspector assesses that the work was performed according to specifications. Inspections are often required for many large renovation projects.

A homeowner who finds unpermitted work on new construction or projects may have some level of recourse. In Quebec, builders, engineers, architects, subcontractors and vendors may be responsible for work defects for up to one year. The period may be extended for larger defects. There may be statutes of limitation on filing claims so proceed quickly if this route is possible to have the claim covered by any responsible parties.

No homeowner wants to jeopardize the health and safety of their Northeast Edmonton home and household. Some unpermitted repairs may do so, such as in the case with electrical work that has not been performed professionally or up to code, creating a potential fire hazard. Problems may also occur with unpermitted decks and other weight-bearing additions to a home. Therefore, it is best for a homeowner to take action to address any issues in regards to unpermitted repairs or upgrades to reduce the potential of injury or personal liability related to such work.

By Justin Havre


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