Permits are usually required when:
Finishing a basement
Finishing the attic
Fencing the yard
Adding a shed or pool
Changing a room to a bedroom (attic or basement)
Getting a new roof
Adding a deck
Each municipality in the Lehigh Valley is different so a home owner should check to see if a Permit is required to do any specific work.
Should a Home Buyer care if work was done without Permits?
During ownership, the Lehigh Valley Home Owner may have done some work that required a permit but didn't get it. Now, when they go to sell the house there may be a problem?
Some work that was done without permits may never be discovered especially if the work was done years ago.
If the Lehigh Valley Municipality has a "resale inspection" sometimes called a Certificate of Occupancy then the municipal inspector may check to verify if a permit was obtained for work that was done to the house. The inspection may require the owner -or- the new home buyer to obtain permits and have inspections done to verify all work was done according to existing building codes. What may have been up to code when the seller did it may not be so when the home is sold years later. (an example below)
If the city sends a report with issues like this, then the work has to get done in a set time period. It is not optional.
Some Lehigh Valley Examples when Permits were not Obtained
A home owner finished their basement in 2001. At the time, a second form of egress (emergency exit) was not required. The owner goes to sell the home in 2010.
In 2004, the building codes changed. To finish a basement, a 2nd form of egress was now required.
If the owner got a permit in 2001 then they are grand fathered in. If they didn't get a permit the municipality may require a 2nd form of egress gets installed (bilco doors or a large window) or they will consider the finished basement "storage only". The home buyer may not want a house that has a finished basement labeled as "unusable for living".
A home owner started to finish their attic. They put in all new electrical wiring from the basement up through the walls to the attic.
While under agreement, the municipal inspection was done and they tagged the attic for being renovated without a permit. To get a "clean" city inspection the owner was going to have to get permits and inspections done on all of the electrical work and insulation. (the walls weren't up yet) The house was being sold in less than a week.
The buyers didn't care about the attic and weren't willing to take on the project of getting the permits and inspections done. The seller was living out of the area and didn't have the ability to get the permits and work done in a timely manner to close on the house.
The municipality finally agreed to OK the inspection if all of the new electrical to the attic was disconnected. In the future, if the buyer wanted to restart the project, they would need to get the permits and inspections done.
The owners paid a large amount of money to put a deck on their home. The contractor got the initial permit but never did the required inspections throughout the building of the deck and then did not do the final inspection required to "sign-off" on the permit.
The house went under agreement and the municipality tagged the deck and said it needed to be inspected to ensure all of the correct building codes were in place.
Proof was needed that the footers were 3' deep. A footer was dug up and it wasn't 3' deep. All of the footers needed to be replaced. The owners contractor had never gotten this inspection done as he was required to do with the "approved" permit.
The deck was not securely fastened to the house.
The owners called the contractor and he came out, spent an hour or two at the house and then washed his hands of the situation. The owners had to hire another contractor to come in and replace all of the footers and securely attach the deck to the house.
In this case, the permit should have helped the owners get the work done correctly but it failed due to a shoddy contractor and the owners faith in whom they hired. They thought the municipality had approved and signed off on the complete project.
The Pennsylvania Property Disclosure is filled out by a home seller and one section covers work done on the home and whether or not permits were obtained and a final approval on the work was completed.
For all of your Lehigh Valley Real Estate information, visit www.lehighvalleyhomesonline.com.