Help with the finished basement with NO permit

10 Replies

Hello BPers,

I have a SFH under contract. Everything looks fine (no structure, foundation, mold issues, just need cosmetic rehab). However, I found out that the basement is only 50% permitted per county record but the owner has it completely finished. Since I plan to do some renovations in basement, I have to pull permit. I worried the city inspector will ask me to open walls and inspect everything behind. Does anyone have experience on this or any suggestions?I had tried to ask city building department a courtesy inspection before we pull the permit, but they refused.

The other issue is that my HVAC guy said the AC unit (in basement) is too small (3 ton) for the 3000 sqft house per code and need to be replaced but my house inspector said the size of the A/C has more to do with design and planning. The city inspector most likely will not make it an issue if it works fine.

So will you back out if you have an unpermitted finished basement and you need to get it permitted during rehab? The price of house is about 70% of market value. Any thoughts?

'50%' finished permitted would mean what, finished but no walls erected creating rooms and no bath/kitchen/bedrooms?

Yes, I asked city the same question that what "50 permitted" mean. They said they don't have record for that. Only shows "50% permitted" :-(

The previous owner said before they move in, the 2 bedrooms and bathroom have been finished already. They finish the kitchen and living room. But nobody knows what 50% got permitted when the house was first built.

Originally posted by @Ping Chen :

The previous owner said before they move in, the 2 bedrooms and bathroom have been finished already. They finish the kitchen and living room. But nobody knows what 50% got permitted when the house was first built.

i hear that one alot (it was like that when we bought!)

if the 2 bedroom were already there, then the assessor would have the correct total # bedrooms of the house on file.

does the assessor record/certificate of occupancy list how many beds and baths? does it match how many actually are (total) in the whole building?

I wouldn't worry about it too much. The permit was issued to the person who pulled it, not you. They are the ones who agreed to the terms of the permit, and to have inspections, etc.

You never entered in to any agreement with the building department, nor did you remodel anything in violation of any codes. As soon as the property changes hands the permit is void.

As far as the HVAC guy, well, I wouldn't worry about him either.

I would venture to guess that the amount of permits pulled and never closed out is huge. This is based on working as an inspector for a mid-sized city. There were thousands of them.

See here for info about permits:

http://publicecodes.cyberregs.com/icod/irc/2012/icod_irc_2012_1_sec007.htm

The county record didn't show how many bed or bath. I don't know if we can still find them for the old house (built in 70's).

I am a newbie, so I just don't have any idea how much work the city inspector will ask us to do. If getting the permit really opens a can of worm, I would rather walk away.

I am curious how other rehabber deal with this issue. I think it should be very common for old house (work finished but no permit). Will you guys go through the permit process or just do some cosmetic work without permit and sell it?

@Ping Chen  

If you pull a permit, you are only responsible for your work area. An inspector can't make you correct or modify existing conditions unless there is a serious threat to safety. An example of a serious unsafe condition would be a second story door that opened up to the outside with no guard rail, or it could mean a basement bedroom without a means of egress. It can be unsafe wiring.

Don't be afraid to challenge anything they say, but as a colleague once said- "If you're going to challenge me, have your code book open".

Either way you have to be familiar with the codes in YOUR area if you are going to be serious. You can get smoked (lose a lot of money) if you make mistakes all the time.

I have run into this and have always referred to it as finished storage when questioned by anyone. As long as you are not trying to represent it as an additional bedroom or living space you should be fine. It is important though to see how the tax office has the house listed

@Ping Chen   I would be careful buying a house that has had un-permitted work done. You're afraid of being asked to "...open the walls and inspect everything behind..." but you should welcome that.   How else can you know if the work was done properly?

"Since I plan to do some renovations in basement, I have to pull permit."

What renovations are you doing, and why do you _have_ to pull a permit?

That is weird, ask the building official what he thinks. But rule of thumb is, if you are not touching it, its not their concern. I would take some pictures before reno, during and after. Let them know that you didn't touch existing. Or simply walk away.

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