Monday, July 23, 2012

Are home-remodeling permits important?

How important are home-remodeling permits?

These are the pesky ones that cities require, holding out their hands for cash but also protecting occupants of the building against hazard such as fire danger (electrical) and water contamination (plumbing)

For example, if you are going to remodel your home by, say, adding two bedrooms, a bathroom and finishing a basement, local ordinances require the homeowner to apply for and receive permits from his city. Generally, you lay out the scope of the work to be done, pay the necessary fees, receive the Permit, display the Permit, do the work, call the city and request an inspection of the completed work, await the inspector with sweaty palms (yours, not his), and obtain the new Certificate of Occupancy.

The inspector will check the quality of the remodeling, confirming that plumbing and electrical work was done correctly, satisfactorily and within Code. From time-to-time, inspections might have to be made while the work is in progress, as portions of the remodeling may be covered up by installation of new walls and wallboard.

Something else important happens when Permits are issued. The Township Assessor is notified, and you know what that means. It means the possibility of re-appraisal of the valuation of the property and adjustment in Assessed Value and, therefore, taxes.

And something else happens. The issuance of the Permit triggers Impact Fees, those onerous and often exorbitant taxes that a City imposes on new construction. You remember hearing developers scream about these, right? What you don't hear are the anguished cries of existing homeowners who are just trying to add a bedroom or two, because they don't want to (or can't afford to) buy a new, larger home. What if, in addition to Permit Fees and the cost of re-modeling, you had to cough up $8,-10,000 in Impact Fees.

OK, to a case in point. Let's say that a new home was built in Woodstock in 2003 as a two-bedroom house, with two bathrooms and a total of seven rooms.

And then let's say that the owner wants to sell the house in 2012 and the real estate agent lists the house as a four-bedroom house with three bathrooms and a finished "lower level" (basement) - total of ten rooms.

Language in the standard Real Estate Contract includes the Seller's assurance (as attested to by his signature on the form) that

231 21. SELLER REPRESENTATIONS: Seller represents that with respect to the Real Estate Seller has no
232 knowledge of
nor has Seller received written notice from any governmental body regarding:
233 (a) zoning, building, fire or health code violations that have not been corrected;
234 (b) any pending rezoning;
235 (c) boundary line disputes;
236 (d) any pending condemnation or Eminent Domain proceeding;
237 (e) easements or claims of easements not shown on the public records;
238 (f) any hazardous waste on the Real Estate;
239 (g) any improvements to the Real Estate for which the required permits were not obtained;
240 (h) any improvements to the Real Estate which are not included in full in the determination of the most... (emphasis added in lines above)

You'd think there would be an application for a Permit for the remodeling in the property file at City Hall and a record of the Permit's having been issued.

Wouldn't you?


woodstockabdicate said...

How long is this going to take? Are you going to be the one to make the accusations and name names or are you just going to attempt to get somebody else to do it, as usual?

John Lovaas said...

To your comment on a home seller's contractual obligation:

'...You'd think there would be an application for a Permit for the remodeling in the property file at City Hall and a record of the Permit's having been issued...'

Well, if someone actually followed the July 11 advice of a former candidate for county sheriff:

'...Now, suppose you buy a two-bedroom, single-family, detached house and think, "Aha! I'll just finish a couple of bedrooms after I move in. No one will know...'

Then there wouldn't be a permit on file. Of course, suggesting that someone do such a thing would be advocating fraud. A candidate for sheriff advocating fraud. Now there's something to blog about!

As to this blindly speculative statement:

'...What if, in addition to Permit Fees and the cost of re-modeling, you had to cough up $8,-10,000 in Impact Fees....'

You are fouling the water by associating impact fees with home remodeling fees. Woodstock's impact fees are for new construction. Could you provide a link to a City of Woodstock document that lists Impact Fees for home remodeling, or any anecdotal evidence that the City is planning to add impact fees to remodeling permits? I just wasted 15 minutes of my life trying to locate that document, and cannot.

Most importantly- as a Woodstock homeowner that started major home improvements this year, it is unclear to me why the tax-paying residents of Woodstock should have to subsidize the cost of inspections to the work being done on private property.

Gus said...

John even though we have not, to my knowledge, met, you must know that I do not advocate skirting the system and avoiding Permit applications and fees.

And perhaps you'll agree with me that homeowners remodel quite frequently without Permit, thus avoiding fees, inspections and new COs.

woodstockabdicate said...

Impact fees are for "bedrooms". Add a bedroom to an existing house and along with the permit fees you will be charged impact fees as well.

Gus said...

woodstockabdicate, thanks for weighing in on this one and for adding your information.

John Lovaas said...

@woodstockabdicate- please post the URL of the City of Woodstock PDF(or cite the text) that shows Impact Fees for additions to existing residential structures. So far, I've found zero evidence to support your statement. I cannot prove a negative- but you can prove a positive. Please provide supporting evidence.

And by the way- 'jone' is an anonymous spammer.

Gus said...

Thanks, John L.

woodstockabdicate said...

Call City Hall. Takes less time than going online. I'm pretty sure they don't have caller I.D. so you won't have to worry about them checking on your building legality, or lack of same.

John Lovaas said...

@woodstockabdicate: I've already read all of the city's permit/fee schedule PDFs- which is the most current information. No Impact Fees for home remodeling- inspection fees, yes- but no Impact Fees. Nothing that even remotely resembles the fees for new construction.

If you can't provide any evidence to back up your claim- well, you're on your way to becoming a fine blogger.

Gus said...

John L., it is my understanding that Impact Fees ARE payable, when a home is remodeled to add, say, two bedrooms.

May I suggest that you might want to telephone Woodstock Community Development at City Hall for an explanation or confirmation of this?

woodstockabdicate said...

My "evidence" is first hand experience. I do not base my understanding of the City's fee and permit structure on their website. If you want to, go ahead but be prepared to pay extra when you get caught.