No permits on addition in home I'm buying

7 Replies

I'm under contract on a SFH in South Florida, and the carport was converted to an extra room, which I think is fairly common. I don't think the owner ever got a permit to do this addition. Eventually I would like to do a further addition to make another bedroom and bathroom, but my concern is that when I get permits to do so will I be stuck with paying back taxes on the non-permitted addition if they catch it?

Our realtor shrugged it off saying either don't get a permit for our future addition, or just be nice to the inspector.  Seems odd to me, but is this a common thing in South Florida?

Originally posted by @Meghan Helbick :

I'm under contract on a SFH in South Florida, and the carport was converted to an extra room, which I think is fairly common. I don't think the owner ever got a permit to do this addition. Eventually I would like to do a further addition to make another bedroom and bathroom, but my concern is that when I get permits to do so will I be stuck with paying back taxes on the non-permitted addition if they catch it?

Our realtor shrugged it off saying either don't get a permit for our future addition, or just be nice to the inspector.  Seems odd to me, but is this a common thing in South Florida?

 I think that is horrible advise from a realtor, or anyone, to say don't get a permit--and "be nice to the inspector" ?!? Really ?!? Have there not been enough deceitfulness in RE.

Regarding the unpermitted room, I would ask the permit office what their take is on this and find out what if anything you could do or what they require. I learned quick about unpermitted rooms and I sure don't want to get stuck with something that I can use.

I've looked at a few homes these past weeks and have found the permits were never closed or inspection completed. When I asked the permit office who would be responsible I was told the owner would need to get them closed out and pay when they did. I placed an offer on one and found it too didn't have an original building permit - how they managed to do that I'm perplexed but according to the permit office they (owner/heirs) would need to get that resolved. That deal didn't work out since they wanted too much for the repairs (not cosmetic) that needed to be done. 

@Meghan Helbick   Interesting realtor you have there.  Unbelievable.

You have no way of knowing how the addition was done or the quality of the work performed.  Neither does anyone else.  And if you go to add on to the un-permitted addition, you may be required by inspectors to open up all the walls... or worse. 

I personally wouldn't buy any house that has had un-permitted work done...unless it was my plan to demo that area anyway.  Be careful...and please find a better realtor!  

@Meghan Helbick I just had a similar issue come up on a property in our area.

This property had an expired permit on an addition. Called the Building Permit office at the county and they they gave me the process for that county. 

  • The Engineer at the Building Permits office would have to come out to the property and look at the work to tell me what needed to be done to property before we could order the inspection.
  • We would have to have to renew the permit and pay a renewal fee. For completed work that is permitted there is an additional fine. (If there was no prior permit or if the homeowner pulled the permit we would be required to have our GC renew the permit, he would have to assume liability for the work done by someone else and submit plans for the already competed work.

Ultimately, passed on the property. The worst case scenario is the GC opening up an enclosed area only to tell me that the only way he will pull permits is if he rebuilds the addition. 

The rules, enforcement, and fees are different for each locality. So you have to check with the Building Permits office for county or the city if the property is within the city limits. They may even have the Permitting Guide published on their website. 

The question asked of the real estate agent is something that is outside of their domain. They should have simply suggested that you have home inspection done by a certified home inspector? 

You will have to submit plans for existing property and show the new addition to be added. Now the city inspector has original records of the existing property. When inspector review the plans that you are submitting he will know that the carport was eliminated. You may have to remove it or pay a fine and permit fee's. The problem is that the inspector has no clue concerning the foundation and how the rest of the exterior walls are connect to the existing structure without approved plans submitted in the first place. My advice don't volunteer anything and when asked don't lie about anything. It may cost you in a long run. Just do the right thing.

Thank you all for your answers and suggestions, I really appreciate it!

I checked on the property appraiser website for the property and they do include the square footage of the  finished carport on there as "SFB semi finished base area."  That makes me think there are no back taxes on it, but will be asking the city more questions today.

You are pretty much at the mercy of the building department in your city.  I would recommend that you have it sorted out with the building department prior to closing.  I would ask the seller to pay for any fees/fines & construction costs that result from the correction.  Whatever you do, have the building department put the required corrective actions in writing so that you are protected!  Keep us posted

I'm going through a similar situation right now, making an offer on a property with a hefty unpermitted addition. The guy who owns the house is a general contractor, and it looks well done, however; on the advice of @Laura Braun I asked my agent to get an inspection clause that is air tight and includes inspection by the city. I want someone to come out and tell me how bad the situation is, will they need me to tear it all open, down, or what? If it looks like a can of worms, I'm out maybe 1K for inspection fees. My home inspector is a guy who used to build houses so he will be my first line of defense.