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Why Get a Building Permit?

The simple answer is because it is the law. Other than the few exceptions listed in the amended 2009 IRC and IBC Building Codes, Sections R105.2 and 105.2 respectively, the construction, alteration, or repair of a building or structure requires a permit. This also is true for plumbing, electrical, gas, and mechanical projects. When you are unsure whether you need a permit, call the Building Department. We will not make you get a permit if you don’t need one. Beware of contractors that suggest that you don’t need to bother. Failure to obtain a permit when one is required and the failure to obtain all the necessary inspections including a final inspection can be very costly.


For example: 

  • The seller of a million dollar + home recently lost their buyer because it was discovered that the attic had been finished including a full bath and the basement had been completely finished with a full kitchen. In addition to losing the sale, permits had to be pulled and much of the work had to be removed so inspections could be completed.

  •  The buyer of a home in Town reviewed the building records at the Building Department and found that their potential purchase had a remodeled basement including a full bath with no permits. After permits were issued to licensed contractors and inspections were conducted, it was found that the plumbing and electrical had not been properly installed and some sections of the project also did not meet the building code. The cost of repairs was significant. Although the sale was finalized, the work delayed the sale. In a tough real estate market, the last thing you need is for a buyer to walk away because of a situation that was avoidable. 
  • After completing the purchase of a home in Town, the buyer began substantial renovations without permits. During the renovation process the fire place was being used to keep the chill out of the house and to dispose of some of the debris. Unknown to the owner, there was a crack in the chimney flue and the house ignited in the middle of the night sustaining severe damage. Two days after the fire the insurance appraiser came in to see the properties building records. When he was informed that there were no permits, he stated that he didn’t think the owner would be able to collect under those circumstances. We never found out if they were paid but it was five months before they applied for permits to complete the project. 
  • A permitted project of an accessory structure was very close to completion but had not yet obtained a final inspection and occupancy certificate. The structure was destroyed in a fire. The builder attempted to collect on his liability insurance policy and was rejected because unbeknown to him there was a clause that excluded coverage of accessory structures. The home owners attempted to claim the loss through their home owner’s policy and were rejected because the occupancy certificate had not been issued.


Please keep in mind: 

  • If you did not get the proper permits, the Building Department can charge you triple the fee that you would have paid. 
  • If it is older work, your project must still meet the most recent codes which can be substantially more stringent requiring more destruction and alteration of the completed work in order to comply. 
  • The fact that you are being assessed and paying taxes on the work does not make your project legal without permits. 
  • In the event of an insurable loss, you may not be able to collect on your home owner’s insurance if you did not get permits or final inspections 
  • You will not be able to obtain future permits until your unpermitted work has been signed off. 
  • Contractors taking responsibility for someone else’s work will charge you more than if they were involved from the beginning. 
  • If you have permits, your project is not complete without final inspections. 
  • Ask to see the permit before you hand over a large sum of money to the contractor both before the project starts and after it appears to be completed. Or call the Building Department to verify signoffs. 
  • A permit is the cheapest insurance you can buy. We are here to protect you and to ensure that your project is completed within the requirements of the multiple State Codes. 

If you have questions please contact the Building Department at 781-320-1091