Construction Permit denied for a DIY Landlord?

6 Replies

I currently own a single family rental in a suburban neighborhood.  Recently I went to obtain a permit to make some improvements to the property.  I was told that permits are only issued to owners who reside at the property or to contractors.  Since I do not fit either criteria, I was unable to obtain a permit.  There are many other rental properties on my block, and all too often improvements are made by the homeowners without a permit.  Now I am understanding why.

My questions: Is this a common scenario?  Do other localities have the same stipulation?  What is the rationale behind this?

@Jeffery Smyter

This is most usually how it works. Owner-occupier or contractor. One of the main reasons I got my home improvement contractor's license in the first place. It's true of almost all the suburbs of the city, but within the city limits here, you have to have a PA contractor's license to even legally lay a hardwood or tile floor in a rental, stuff you would never need a license and insurance for anywhere else.

The rationale behind it is simple. A contractor has liability insurance, in many cases, liability insurance for days. An owner-occupant, on the other hand, can't legally or realistically be forbidden completely from working on his own house of s/he wants to. Does the property belong to the municipality or the owner, especially an owner living in his own d---ed house? But the municipality can set up roadblocks and obstacles for the owner-occupant, which you will find as soon as the inspector comes around. Usually, these guys HATE working with non-professionals, and they WILL make your life difficult to make sure you do it exactly the way they want the first time and, barring that, you never try to sign off on a permit as an owner-occupant again.

In urban areas and high density suburbia, always check to see what are the restrictions on renovations. In some Atlanta areas , they have general renovation permits that are basically for paint , flooring and fixtures . It’s a basic tax, no Inspections. Other areas , you have to full permit an exterior paint job. You also better watch out for the lead paint police too. Take precautions. 

If you are going to hire a contractor, have them give you a schedule to follow their progression and forthought.  Most professionals will, but have an end in mind. 

You don't write where you are. 

In Atlanta they recently changed and I'm no longer able to pull permits for my own properties....it sucks. 

@Jeffery Smyter what you encountered is common practice in the Denver area.  A homeowner can pull permits for a house they reside in, but not for rental properties.  An alternative is to get a general contractors license.   There are prep courses you can take.

Sorry, I should have provided a little more background.  I am in the Denver Metro area.  We have owned the property for 16 years.  For the first 10 years we lived at the property, and the last 6 years we have been renting it.  While I see other landlords doing most of their work without a permit, I have always checked to see if a permit was needed before starting a project.

During the last 6 years, I have obtained 2 permits for work on the property.  The first was to remove and replace the roof.  The second was to install a backflow preventer to then install an irrigation system 2 years ago.  Both of these projects I completed myself and passed the inspection on the first visit from the inspector.  This time around, I was denied a permit solely because I am a landlord.

There is a list of items that need permits, and a list of items that do not require permits.  Items such as paint, flooring, landscaping, "minor repairs", etc do not require permits, so it appears that I will still be able to complete a considerable amount of work at the property.  Thanks to everyone for the feedback.  As you can understand, I was a bit shocked when this happened.  It sounds like it is becoming more common.