Got back the zoning inspection, need your help!

6 Replies

OK, being new to real estate I need the eyes of someone with experience.

I get what this report is showing, but I am primarily concerned with the third page, point D: A permit is required for any of the following.... etc. etc.

My question is, what exactly requires hiring a 'design professional'?  I mean, if there is a copper pipe that has a crack in it, it's quite simple to get some flux, a coupler, propane torch, etc and get it good as new.  Am I allowed to do this or does this notice require that I hire a professional?  If I have to hire a pro, there is no portion stating that I need to keep receipts and prove it really, I just have to have the inspector come back to the house and verify that it is up to code.

I guess I am just confused now as to what constitutes a do-it-myself kind of job versus what I have to hire someone to do.  

As always BP community, your help is SINCERELY appreciated!

Building permit rules vary significantly between locations, so you should probably set up an appointment to discuss this with your local building department.

In my area (NJ), unless an owner occupies the property as their primary residence, they may not do any plumbing or electrical work that requires a permit, and any structural changes will need to be drawn by an architect or engineer. Receipts are not used to prove who did the work - the permit application will need to be completed by and be stamped with the seal of a licensed plumber, electrician, or architect. In NJ, changing fixtures, outlets, and minor plumbing repairs do not require a permit and can be done by anybody.

I would suggest you "be friendly" with the inspector, make a phone call and ask if it is OK to ask him about the inspection report. You might find the inspector to be cooperative, or you might find he is difficult. 

I would suggest you "be friendly" with the inspector, make a phone call and ask if it is OK to ask him about the inspection report. You might find the inspector to be cooperative, or you might find he is difficult.

 Either way, you're going to have to deal with them.  So be friendly, cooperative, and cordial and try to come up with a solution that meets their requirements.  I've found that even with the situation starts badly, cooperating with the inspectors and showing you really do want to do what they consider the right thing will usually bring them around.

The zoning part on the first page says you're in compliance, but that no more units can be added. 

The building code section notes a number of issues.   Items 1-7 and 11 could probably be done yourself.  Item 8 notes a third party inspector is required.  I would assume that's a standard requirement in your area and you should be able to find such an inspector.  Ask the building department inspector for a reference or how to find the required inspector.  Electrical work (items 8-10) may require a licensed electrician and a permit.  Note D lists the sort of work that needs permits and stamped plans.  Discuss with the inspector what needs to be done for 8-10 and whether or not stamped plans are needed.  Item 12 is also a topic for discussion.  It does explicitly state a permit is required.  I'm guessing the water lines are either damaged or removed.  I wouldn't really expect either of these (electrical and plumbing) to require stamped plans, but both would require permits and a licensed electrician and plumber.  If 12 (mold) is a serious problem you may have to hire a licensed company for that, too.  Or, this could just be a cleaning issue.

Jon Holdman

    Hi Patrick

    I would also do as Steve suggested above - call the municipal office and ask to speak to the inspector.  All the inspectors I have worked with have been very helpful and I believe the show of respect is appreciated.  

    I try to be there for the inspection and mention to them while walking through that I usually do my own work and ask them if that complies with local rules.  Each time I have asked they told me it was fine as long as I had the required inspections done.

    FYI - definitely need a permit if you want to build or structurally change a building, but I have not had an inspector yet that said anything about doing my own plumbing, light electrical, roof, window replacements, door replacements or drywall, although they do go around and check to make sure everything works, look for fernco's where plastic drain meets cast, and they definitely look for the inspection on the electric box.  Most places don't require permits for repairs.

    Rick

    @Steve Babiak  is spot on.  You're on the city's radar so be up front and open with them (and maybe a bit dumb about the process).  You should be able to get a good idea of how easy/difficult they will be to work with.  Often these reports look scarier than they are.

    Licensing enforcement and building permits are very different things from an enforcement perspective.  Many building inspectors will work with the DIY crowd if the work is clean and to code, particularly if they are owner occupants.

    From my experience, local inspectors and zoning enforcement want properties to be safe and presentable (a common goal).  Licensing enforcement is to protect existing licenses under the auspices of protecting the public--you--from unlicensed and uninsured shysters (not a common goal).  Unfortunately, laws usually link the two.

    Good luck!

    William Hochstedler

      Originally posted by @Jon Holdman:
       ...  Item 8 notes a third party inspector is required.  I would assume that's a standard requirement in your area and you should be able to find such an inspector.  Ask the building department inspector for a reference or how to find the required inspector.  Electrical work (items 8-10) may require a licensed electrician and a permit.  ...

      Most smaller towns and even the City of Phila require a third party electrical inspection; some towns have their own inspector that is certified for this, or hire their own third party inspection company for this.  Your electrician will already be working with such third party electrical inspectors, so ask the electrician for that referral.  I have used three different third party inspection companies since I have the electrician include passing inspection as part of their requirements, so the electrician brings in their preferred inspector.

      Another way to get inspector names is to check for tags / labels on the breaker panel that show who inspected it most recently, since identifying the inspection on the panel is normally part of the process. You can look at any panel in a nearby rental house, MLS listing (like open houses), REOs, etc.

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