To Get a Permit or Not to Get One

71 Replies

Setting all your pros and cons aside, to my mind there is only one pro and one con. Is it required or not?

Permitting is generally a city/county thing so it depends on the on your local jurisdiction.  The general rule of thumb here in Houston is that permits aren't required if you're not making any structural changes to the house.  And that means no walls are being removed or moved. Nothing is being added, etc. As long as the layout will remain exactly the same, you shouldn't require a permit for remodeling.

Now, Boulder, being Boulder, may require a permit for something like painting the house.

If a permit is required and you don't get one, it can cause lots of problems down the road when you try to sell. We've been trying to close on an empty lot since January and it has been a nightmare. The latest, and supposedly last, hoop we have to jump through involves a permitting issue. Apparently years ago there was a house on the lot that was condemned as a dangerous house. Some previous owner had the house torn down, but never got a permit. So now the seller has to apply for a permit to tear down a house that doesn't exist before we can close.

Originally posted by @Brian M.:

I am working with a handymen with great references (not licensed) to get the work done. It will be around $40,000 in labor and $40-50,000 in materials. 

 Check your state laws, some states limit the dollar amount that an unlicensed handyman can charge for labor and materials. A couple of other things to consider. Unlicensed licensed contractors are usually uninsured, so if he or one of his workers get injured at your home you will probably be sued. Also, what if an unlicensed contractor screws up the job and/or disappears with your money? Even if you find him he may go bankrupt on you. Many state licenses require contractors to provide insurance and a bond that a harmed customer can at least recover.  As always, anything I say may be wrong or just complete a lie, seek professional advice.

Most legal hawks on here would disagree with me but Unless I was actually adding square footage to the structure I would not get a permit . That being said ,I live in a fairly rural area and most everyone I know goes by this rule . If your doing an addition that’s a different story . Look They will eventually reassess the property for taxes and bump it up anyway so why rush your tax hike . Every city is different but around here it’s easier to apologize then it is to ask . It is a good idea to be sure your contractor / handyman is licensed and insured . That is a must on a 40k rehab

My suggestion is to make sure all your work is done above board. Do things the right way, every time. Don't put yourself at risk to save a few bucks. If the work requires permits, get them, no matter what the downsides. The downsides of not getting permits far outweighs the few downsides of getting them.

get three more additional quotes from professional contractors.  90k for a handy man is way to much risk, for that chunk of change you want a contract, and you want to be dealing with a bonded/insured company.

Make the contractors get the permits - never get them your self unless you are doing the work. It will add some cost, but it's the right thing to do, plus holds your contractors accountable. As for time, in most cities that I have pulled permits in, it takes a few days to get the permit.

Oh and don't use a handyman, unless you are the lead and doing know what you're doing 

@Brian M.

Get the permit, guess what you are worried about time now but if you get caught by the city it will take you triple the time to get back on track plus you will be fined. Your contractor can pull the permit quick unless he is not licensed. 

Good luck 

thanks @Michael Hayworth I appreciate the balanced viewpoint here. That was in line with my viewpoint and it is good to hear it from someone like you that has contracting firm. I am doing the work for myself with a "friend." My friend that has great references and great Angie's List reviews. Maybe my views are due to my age being a millennial :)

I will likely pull the permits myself to be safe.

Originally posted by @Brian M.:

@Todd Dexheimer It takes up to 12+ weeks to get permits here.

Have you done that research yourself? I would be shocked if it takes that long to get a permit. Flipping business would definitely be nonexistent if that were the case. 

Heres some questions I bet you didn't even think of.

Are you free man or slave?

Do you obey officials not elected, not voted, not listed on our constitution?

Do you really need to get  permission from your neighbor to work on your own property? 

Is he also town sheriff or has a similar unethical immoral connection like earning money while on job or from networking side jobs from his officisl position?

Do you believe the person who you are going to exchange money for paper permission is constuitionally correct in their taxation ie theft of your effort to improve safety and function of your home?

Does he personally know more than you? Will you change house once code changes?

Do you believe you will be more free, safer, healthier and in better state  cause you allowed exchange of money for permission from this thug to occur?

Is anyone responsible for your success or failure even in building but you? 

Is this person going to protect, provide and pay you back if you get hurt or others get hurt in or while building or into future in your structure if its found to be due to his feedback, recommendations or lack thereof?  

Does ceo as your town neighbor and fellow tax payer intend to lend hand in repairs since you pay his salary and add to his bonuses  commissions and advancement by getting the "bad guy" to comply with their taxation without representation?

So are these all justified under needed non permit required safety,maintenance, repairs not improvements, upgrades and wants?

Can you afford to sue and fight the unconstutionality of this town bully when if your jealous nosey socialistic neighbors complain to him, town and police state on you, for working hours in town, other made up codes like noise pollution or too much activity, too bright lights  too tall ladder etc

Are you going to continue to keep ball and chain around your neck for fear of master slave owner aka unvoted unapproved town position of person enforcing codes not laws ?

Will you bend to these nazi like regime rules?

Or willing to move to area with no codes that communist socialistic town idiots who voted this ceo in and these codes thrives off of controlling with fear and intimidation?

Just curious...

Have great slave day....

Brian M. Yes, if your building catches fire, and insurance company finds out you touched the electrical without a permit, don’t even bother calling your insurance company. A flood caused by plumbing joint not properly put up, denied. A building inspector passes by and when drywall is up and ready to paint, yup, tear up those new walls coz he needs to inspect every inch of that electrical, plumbing and framing work you just put up. It took me 3 trips to b&s to pull my first residential, all of them over the counter, new construction, yeah, more than 12 weeks, addition or small remodel, over the counter. People who yack about it takes too long don’t know how to do it 90% of the time.l, the other 10% is correct and b&s just takes time. Fun fact, almost all unlicensed sub I talk to is “thinking” or “working on” their license, so they always end up bidding on a fixed number of hours on fixed rate if they really want my money, of course it’s an employee and i have a license.


@Michael Hayworth I’m a licensed contractor here in Florida. Your response has been pretty much the only thorough and logical mindset about this all. It’s amazing to me how I have 1 inspector doing 95% of my inspections on a new build. As if he’s a super tradesmen and hall of famer in every trade category. 🤽♀️🤽🏻♂️🏄♂️🧗🏼♂️🥇🏋🏼♀️⛷🏌🏾♂️⛹🏾♀️🤾🏻♀️🏊🏻♂️🚣♂️

These guys kill me. 

@Brian M. I know plenty of unlicensed “handymen” who run laps around licensed guys I know as well. Some of the unlicensed guys have very legitimate reasons for not having a license. They are either horrible at testing, but great with their hands. Some just literally don’t have the time or desire, because they are busy with a million jobs because they are highly referred. And for some English is their second language and they would fail a test immediately. 

Either way, permits don’t protect you. Permits keep your city/county’s pockets fat, so that they can sit around a table and come up with more ways to swindle you out of your money. Hilarious. 

If you have nosey neighbors, or are on unfriendly terms with them, get the permit. They will snitch on you. If you plan on living there for a long time, don’t feel pressure to get one. Easy. 

Some of these licensed contractors have less morals than unlicensed ones. 

Also, what’s the current verdict?

I used to live in an etj and we did not have to pull permits.  The only entity that claimed we had to pull a permit was the mud (municipal water district)and they wanted sprinklr systems, water softeners and pools permitted.  If you are rural, you may not be required to either.  Most of the stuff on your list is well within the scope of a skilled handyman.  Enlarging a window opening or just replacing a window, installing vapor barrier, moving a plumbing fixture as well as a simple tub/shower replacement can cause real damage to your structure if done wrong.  (And they sometimes are.  My neighbor got termites after hiring a neighbor handyman to tile her shower.)   If you do not need permits you could photograph the new window headers, flashing and insulation, shower waterproofing before tile and all the stuff an inspector would want to see for future buyers.

So I have a friend that had some work done by an unlicensed handyman. They did not get permits. The handyman screwed them, didn't finish the job, and destroyed some of their property. What is the handyman's exposure?

Please spare my friend the riot act, as they realized they took a risk and lost, and they don't plan to take this risk in the future for important jobs. 

Originally posted by @Joseph M. :

So I have a friend that had some work done by an unlicensed handyman. They did not get permits. The handyman screwed them, didn't finish the job, and destroyed some of their property. What is the handyman's exposure?

He won't have any exposure unless your friend goes after him in court. Hopefully they had a contract with him and can enforce it. Collecting the money is another thing...


@Matt M. I am wondering what an unlicensed handymans exposure is as it relates to the County in which they performed unpermitted work as a non-licensed contractor.

Originally posted by @Joseph M. :

@Matt M. I am wondering what an unlicensed handymans exposure is as it relates to the County in which they performed unpermitted work as a non-licensed contractor.

I'm about 99% sure it's Zero. 


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