Do you bother getting a permit to replace the water heater?

Landlord Forums & Rental Property Questions 171.2K Posts 17.7K Discussions

I called the county permitting office and they do require a permit to replace a water heater. Since it's highway robbery to pay a licensed plumber to do anything, I was wondering if most people ignore the permit issue when dealing with the heater, or is it better to go ahead and pay the plumber for liability reasons? thanks

In our state HVAC guys can install water heaters also and are cometimes a lot cheaper.

You have to watch out for the permit police. Can you pull the permit yourself or do need an MP to pull it?

I generally won't use a licensed plumber to replace a water heater, and as such, won't pull permits.

As a counter-example though...yesterday we were replacing a water heater and a pressure reduction valve for a buyer after their inspection, and knew that the buyer/agent would be interested in seeing receipts/invoices. Since we didn't want to take the chance of the buyer/agent knowing that we were supposed to pull permits and didn't, we just went with our licensed plumber, and he pulled the permits for us.

So, there are some exceptions...

Originally posted by Jeffrey K.:

You have to watch out for the permit police. Can you pull the permit yourself or do need an MP to pull it?

They told me that if I was doing the work myself I could pull it but if someone else was doing it I needed a licensed contractor to come pull it. I never mentioned to them that it's a rental property.

Requiring a permit has been in effect for several years here. A few months ago, and I posted about it, a guy installed a gas water hearter and the house blew up and damaged about 6 surrounding homes, a couple were a total loss, leveled!

Local retailers and wholesalers (Lowe's, HD, etc) will not sell a heater unless you show the permit or your plumber's license.

I did purchase one at Lowes saying it was to be installed in another county that does not have building regs, and that was in fact the case.

Don't forget to shut the gas off!

Medium logoscopiccroppedblue2Bill Gulley, General Real Estate Academy | https://generalrealestateacademy.com

Originally posted by Financexaminer:
Requiring a permit has been in effect for several years here. A few months ago, and I posted about it, a guy installed a gas water hearter and the house blew up and damaged about 6 surrounding homes, a couple were a total loss, leveled!

Local retailers and wholesalers (Lowe's, HD, etc) will not sell a heater unless you show the permit or your plumber's license.

I did purchase one at Lowes saying it was to be installed in another county that does not have building regs, and that was in fact the case.

Don't forget to shut the gas off!

actually it's an electric...

The blow up of water heaters comes from the temperature and pressure valve (T&P) being omitted or incorrectly done or defective. Due to pressure build-up with the heated water in the enclosed space of the heater, I believe, and eventually the tank expands past the breaking point of the materials.

I replaced a hot water heater once without a permit. Later I did some remodel work and the inspector noted that the water heater was new compared to the last known permit on file. Bottom line they made me pay for the $50 permit.

When I replaced our primary residence water heater with a tankless, I went ahead and applied for a permit. After I finished the installation (major work, but very educational), the inspector came over and signed off the permit after looking at it for 2 minutes.

The only thing he really seemed concerned about was the pressure relief valve (which is kind of useless on a tankless, but whatever). He didn't measure or even look at the very expensive single-walled stainless-steel flue I installed, nor did he check for the mandatory 3 inches of clearance from combustibles (ok, maybe he just eye-balled it). He didn't concern himself with all the other clearances around the unit that were clearly marked on the housing. Perhaps inspectors are used to seeing some really shoddy installations and anything that even looks remotely like the installer took some care is fine with them?

Anyways, when I replaced the hot water heater in our rental condo (conventional tank), I didn't bother with a permit. Nobody at Home Depot asked for a permit or my plumber's license either! :-)

I have yet to permit a water heater install, but if I did or had to, I would use my HVAC (who is my brother) to do it. HVAC techs can do it for much cheaper than plumbers.

In CA, Lowes/HD and other sellers of this product do not ask for a permit or licnese before they sell to you. Perhaps that is only in Missouri where Bill is (as he stated)

Medium be logoWill Barnard, Barnard Enterprises, Inc. | http://www.barnardenterprises.com

Never had Lowes or HD ask about a permit in Washington state either. There isn't much you can do with a property in Washington where they don't want a permit.

Must be a county-by-county thing in MO because I've bought a water heater at a Lowes in MO with nary a question.

Jon Holdman, Flying Phoenix LLC

To add to what Mitch was saying, inspectors just care that it is done in a work-man like manner. It is mostly to raise money for the city and to pay for the inpsctor's wage and the union benefits for the city.

There are not a lot of huge plumbing jobs so they require you to pull a permit for anything other than changing washers (this includes changing a toilet or faucet). This ensures that they are able to keep busy and keep the funds coming in.

We are in a public place here and my advice to you would be to pull a permit. It is obviously cheaper to not do it but it isnt legal. Also, if you don't pull permits, I would not advertise it on the internet.

In my area you can not pull a permit for the hot water heater yourself if its to be installed in your non primary residence, such as rental property. I bought one last week from lowes without any permit or anything, although there has been talk about them requiring it to anyone purchasing one, it hasnt happened yet.

I've replaced 10+ water heaters in the last 3 years in Southern California and I never pulled permit. Some cities has very specific rules you must follow though.

Originally posted by Jeffrey K.:
To add to what Mitch was saying, inspectors just care that it is done in a work-man like manner. It is mostly to raise money for the city and to pay for the inpsctor's wage and the union benefits for the city.

There are not a lot of huge plumbing jobs so they require you to pull a permit for anything other than changing washers (this includes changing a toilet or faucet). This ensures that they are able to keep busy and keep the funds coming in.

We are in a public place here and my advice to you would be to pull a permit. It is obviously cheaper to not do it but it isnt legal. Also, if you don't pull permits, I would not advertise it on the internet.

I'm planning on shopping around at the stores, buying it myself and having someone install & pull the permit. I've called around and the price seems to be around $750 to have a plumber take care of everything incl. providing the WH

I bought a water heater for my home from Lowe's 2 years ago, and they sent a licensed plumber to deliver it and he dealt with the permit. Permits are required for it here in NJ.

It was all included in the price and done the same day I bought it in the store. Delivery, installation, removal of old heater. Copy of the permit showed up in the mail a couple of weeks later.

Total cost $400. For the great service and timeliness, it was totally worth it.

Guys - come on now. Plumbers are not that expensive and I know some pretty high dollar HVAC companies in town, at least in this neck of the woods - LOL!
@ Mitch - As far as the inspectors go - they do not care about the manufacture specs - only about building codes and safety issues. Some counties require double wall venting, some don't and most codes are written to state that the building official's interpretation over rides the contractors. If you did not install to manufacture specs you will void the warranty and many manufactures require installation to be completed by lic. contractors.
@ Lowe's customers - they now should all require permits to be paid for if required by the individual county on installations only. There are some areas though, where I understand you have to have a lic. even to purchase some plumbing related products.

Permits are required so that the home can be brought up to code. Much of the money the government is doling out right now is for infrastructure improvements. I know here in Atlanta they are working on water systems left and right. Some counties even have an addendum that must be attached to the purchase and sale agreement, requiring the seller to certify certain items have been brought up to code. Not following these rules just leaves your home in a risky situation. Water can do a lot of damage and blown out pipes or water heaters due to improper or incomplete installation (ex. not including expansion tank, piping T&P line outside, forgetting to check the pressure and/or replacing the PRV) can have dire consequences that can cost thousands of dollars in damage that may or may not be covered under your hazard policy if you did not follow the rules.

"As far as the inspectors go - they do not care about the manufacture specs - only about building codes and safety issues."

Most codes say you must go by the manufacturers instructions, At least that's their first line of defense in electrical inspections... And I've never taken a permit for a water heater replacement!!!

In my reading of the code in Indianapolis, water heater replacement is specifically exempted from the permit requirements for one and two family dwellings. I have had 3 water heaters installed, 1 by an HVAC, 2 by plumber. I did not have to show permits or a license to buy 2 from Home Depot.

Kyle I 2nd that! I'm glad we don't have a lot of red tape in Indiana, but when there's a money crunch the gov't will start to tighten up.

The permit is not that expensive in Washington and connecting a hot water tank is one of the easiest plumbing jobs there is. There's no way that I would pay a plumber to come out and install it for $750 when I can get the permit, HWT and install in in less than an hour for no more than 350 or 400 all in. HWTs are not that expensive in Washington state even for a 50 or 80 gallon tank.

In Washington state as long as you are the property owner you can do your own work, pull your own permits and arrange the inspection yourself.

I will seriously not bother in getting a permit to replace the water heater, but in my opinion what is the need of getting it? If you a plumbing company owner then it’s compulsory to get a permit. But if you a common person then you can directly view videos on YouTube which completely explains how to replace a water heater. Replacement of water heater is easy but one should go with professional plumbing service as they know proper and excellent ways to install it.

The bottom line is that the primary value of getting permits is that it is a CYA in a big brother society where the government claims to be protecting us but does a poor job of the protection and still makes an attempt at enforcement. 

That said, I generally believe in getting them because when buying a property permits are the easiest way for a buyer, or lender, to check that the work was done right. Do they come even close to accomplishing that? No, but not having permits will be a red flag to anyone who does check. They also will have a negative effect in any liability suit.  Having them might be a slight positive, but not having them would be a huge negative.