A Bit about Remodeling Permits

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Many homeowners who embark upon a remodeling project worry unnecessarily about the subject of permits. The cost of permits and an uncertainty about procedures and inspections may drive even the most honest and civic-minded to consider remodeling without permits. We don't advise it.

While every city has different requirements, for most kitchen or bathroom remodeling projects, the process is straightforward, the cost reasonable, the inspections timely and in the best interests of the homeowner. Getting permits for your projects is a much better alternative to avoiding this step in your project planning. Remodeling or demolition should not start prior to obtaining required permits.

1) Why you need a permit
The permit and inspection process gives you, your neighbors, and your City assurance that specific standards are met when expanding, altering, or repairing your property. State codes, local codes and zoning requirements are all standards based on well-established health, safety, and environmental considerations intended to protect the integrity of your home, the safety of its inhabitants, and the welfare of the public. The permit and inspection process ensures that your contractor is doing the work correctly and safely. The city is really on your side.

Projects not completed according to code can affect your home’s insurability and potential sale. In most cases City building records are public, available upon request. Anyone involved in a future sale of your home, including municipal agencies, can use these records to see if permits were obtained and if compliance was achieved for specific projects. In some areas, a lack of permits will hold up the sale while the non-permitted work is corrected or torn out.

2) When is a permit required?
Permits are required prior to removing and/or installing most remodeling or construction materials on your property. Samples of required permits for interior remodeling include the
installation of new cabinets, and modification, installation, or replacement of electrical, plumbing, or heating devices.

3) Who is Responsible for Obtaining a Permit?
The property owner is responsible for ensuring that a permit is obtained prior to work being started. Contractors can also apply and obtain permits on behalf of the property owner but expect to pay for this service. Time spent at the permit office is often billed at the same rate as the remodeling work itself. There are also permit-assistance companies that can help you.

In most cases, when a typical kitchen remodel, the simplest and most affordable route is for the homeowner (who is hiring a licensed contractor to do the work) to get their own permits. Your contractor must often supply a license number and evidence of worker's comp insurance. If you are doing the work yourself and simply hiring laborers to assist, you will need a worker's comp policy as well.

4) How Much Does the Permit Cost?
With few exceptions, permit fees are based on the fair market value of the work being done, including the cost of materials.

5) How Do I Get a Permit
In Los Angeles, express permits can be gotten online for many types of projects. In other cities, a call to your city's building and safety office will enable you to discuss your project and find out the requirements. In most cases, two submissions will be required, in addition to fees:

1) A detailed, written description of the proposed work
2) A dimensioned floor plan detailing tthe areas of change

For many kitchen remodeling projects, inspections will be required. Any electrical, plumbing or wall removal or building will require inspection. Your contractor will help you schedule so that there are no delays. Inspections can often be scheduled a mere 24 hours in advance.

This article is only a brief summary of some things I have learned about permits. I hope it provides enough gentle encouragement so that you will include the cost of permits in your budget, and the process of obtaining permits in your remodeling learning curve. It's far easier than you may think.

If you'd like to discuss your project with me, I can offer you a free, 30-minute phone consultation. Here's my calendar, just pick a time that works for you.