Contractor did not pull permit. What are my options?

20 Replies


I am in the midst of a rehab in Sacramento. The goal is to fix the place up and sell it. The work includes electrical update, plumbing, new kitchen, new bath, removal of one interior wall and addition of another interior wall. I've told my contractor multiple times that I want everything to be up to code and he needs to pull the building permit. He said he would, but then ended up not doing it anyways. 

At this point, the electrical and plumbing is done. The walls are up and the place is painted inside and outside. Getting a permit now seems hard and expensive. What are my options? I would really like it to be up to code, but I also don't want to tear up all the walls again.


If he was specifically instructed to pull permits your recourse may be legal unfortunately.

You might have to just push forward and wing it. If there are no known problems we should stay focus moving forward

Thanks for the answer @Aaron K. and @Frank Romine

I'd rather not take any legal steps. First, I don't have anything in writing. And second, my budget is already tight. Taking legal steps just costs me even more - attorney fees, more holding costs etc.

I was also thinking of just going through with the rehab without the permit, but I do have a feeling that de-values the property massively.

Depending on what the permit was for it may exclude FHA buyers and having no permits is absolutely something you would need to disclose to potential buyers.

I would go talk to the building department and find out what they do.  No need to ID yourself.  Maybe ask about a "friend"  or that you want to buy a house that you know had work with no permits... how can you get it legal?  They might surprise you.  

They WANT you to get right... in Davis.  they just inspect, and if it looks ok, they bang you for 2x the fees. a steal.  Or they might say oh you are screwed... and then you walk and wing it.

FYI - if the contractor did not pull permits when required, he may be licensed.

Hi Simon I am a GC and I would first like to say sorry for your experience with this contractor. Unfortunately you ran into a bad contractor that does not display true craftsmanship and professionalism. I would report him to the contractor state license board. Also go ahead and do what the other person in the replies mentioned and go talk to inspectors about a “ friend” who got lied to by a contractor and now has completed work with no permits.

my "friend" is ALWAYS screwing up...  ;)

@Simon Stahl I would contact the city and explain the situation. Let them know you just became aware the contractor didn't pull permits and you want everything to be legit. This could be a major problem for the contractor. In most places, the contractor has a responsibility to pull the permit when doing work. They are the professional. 

I would not cover this up. If the contractor took shortcuts on the permit, they may have short cut the quality of work. Even if it costs you money, you need to follow code. 

It may be a situation that you can get a walk through inspection from the city so they can approve everything that they currently can inspect. Also, you can have the trades (electrical, plumbing, HVAC) write a certification letter to certify their work. This will cover you somewhat.

Depending on the scale of the remodel, the city will not be okay with a walk through inspection. Most likely will require you to cut some drywall at various location so they can see how the electrical is run. You can search the city website and look for an email address with the building department, and send an anonymous email to see if they can give you some answers.  

This post has been removed.

Just want to give an update since this thread suddenly seems to pick up again. 

To be clear; the contractor is licensed and I am very happy with him except this one issue with the permit. He did really good work on this property for a reasonable price. That he did not get the permits is as much my fault as it is his. I should have been more on top of that. There was some confusion at the beginning of the project because I initially started it with a partner. It would have been his responsibility to make sure the rehab goes well and everything is up to code. He suddenly flunked out and I had to take over his responsibilities. In this process, the permits somehow got forgotten.

Anyhow, I decided to go on without pulling the permits at the end. There was already a bunch of unpermitted work done on this house before I even bought it (an addition, basement etc). I felt like bringing in a city inspector after the rehab was already finished would have been to much risk. They could have made me rip the walls open again, open the floors and who knows what else. That would have been too expensive. 

The property in question just sold. I was open about the permit issue during the sale process and fully disclosed the situation. I cannot say with certainty if I could have gotten more for it with the proper permits or not. I definitely learned the hard way though that I have to pay more attention to everything. Next time, I will use a checklist with all the itms that I need to remember.

Thanks again everyone for the suggestions

Nice!  This might have been why he never did it... assuming that you werent going to remedy the old illegal work, so why spend thousands on permits for the inspector to red tag your house in the end anyway.  Glad it worked out!

It worked out, that's great for you. I would not do it without permits and I work with code enforcement all the time.

Hello Simon!

I'm reading your post to my GC b/f, he advises "it doesn't matter if you have it in writing or verbal, contractor is legally required to assure a permit is pulled for the work, regardless.

Work is not suppose to be started until then.

Options are, to call license board and his bond may cover to remedy/satisfy inspections, permits, etc.. but, may open can of worms. 

City holds owner responsible for any violation of non-permitted projects.

I see this is older post, may be helpful for others, future projects... :-)

Residential code enforcement officials love good, honest renovators who don't endanger the community. They despise scumbags. They've seen fails like you wouldn't believe. They've heard every story. Treat them as partners in your rehab, not someone to go around.

I don't remember who said this, but if you try to play cat and mouse with these people, you are going to be reminded very quickly just who is the mouse.

^^this.  the solution might not be easy... but if you show that you want to do things right, I have found them to be very easy to work with and helpful MOST times...

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