Experience legalizing unpermitted remodel on Oakland,CA

5 Replies

Greetings BP community,

I am interesting in flipping a home in Oakland, CA.  There has been unpermitted work done in the past.  I would like to work with the building inspectors to legitimize the work, so that the city can reflect the additional bathroom and bedroom (converted attic) on their records.  Does anyone have any experience working with the city to legalize unpermitted work?  What has been your experience?  And how long it the process take?

Thanks in advance,


@Brian K.   I have done this in AZ so I'm not sure how much would apply to what I call the country of California and what their regulations would require.  

Start with the records department and dig up anything you can in person.  You would not believe how much documentation can be missed when cities transferred to digital.  In one case I actually had an approved permitted addition but for whatever reason it just never got scanned into the city and county website.

When it came to permits, the city of Phoenix required me to pull a permit as it should have been before the unpermitted work started.   From there, it was 100% in the hands of the city inspectors and what they wanted to see.  Some inspectors might want to rip walls open, some inspectors might not even walk in the room being inspected.  I was fairly lucky with the inspection process and did not have any major undertakings to get everything approved.  

I'm not sure about Oakland, but it can be a nightmare in Los Angeles.

The difficulty of the situation sometimes depends on the inspector, but the city will nevertheless require you to meeting the regulations of today and sometimes that hurdle in itself can turn into a rebuild.

Make sure the risk is worth the reward. Speak to a few contractors who are seasoned and see what they feel it would cost to have the city permit the job done.

I suspect it's not permitted because it doesn't meet standards from when they build it, and even more so today.

To your success!

@Brian K. first thing you should do is pull something called a 3R report.  Basically it is a report from the City as to what work has been permitted on the property.  Be VERY sure that you want to go through the legalization process.  Once you alert the city to all of these changes on the building you have basically put a bulls eye on the side of the building.  Obviously the cost will depend heavily on the work that has been done most particularly the quality of work.  If you do go through with the purchase, make sure you build this into your asking price.  

Don't treat this lightly as you may open a can of worms that will eat you whole...

Thanks for everyone's comments. I'm being extra cautious with this potential project and what everyone has suggested, it could be nightmarish and the rewards need to outweigh the risk.