Beams are too small or the supports are too big - FAIL, from City of Miramar, FL Code Compliance website

Additions and remodels done w/o a permit  Buying a house in foreclosure or REO or what-have-you, means YOU end up with the burden of determining whether previous projects were done legally.

A former U.S. politician and his wife (they are a fun couple, they’d hung out at the house we had for sale in Willow Glen, I enjoyed talking with them and had no idea who they were…my mother would not be impressed by my political acumen) asked us to review some homes to see if they were suitable for the project he and his wife were thinking of doing.   One house has a gorgeous kitchen but the previous owners had ripped out some stuff in anger at losing their home and also hadn’t bothered to get permits for the extensive kitchen remodeling and we could tell that there was an addition to the house – maybe two. 

 If someone doesn’t think they need permits, what is to say they are actually going to do the job itself correctly?  What other corners did they cut?  We recommended against buying that house – just walk away.  Sometimes a good deal isn’t.

 Another issue with non-permitted work is that your insurance company may take issue with any problems that arise because of work done in that space.  Electrical fire?  Water damage?  Drywall cracks?  Check with your insurance company to see what their standards are.

 Its important to gather as much information as you can in order to make an informed decision.  Ask the Building Department what permits were issued for a property; ask if there were/are any Code Compliance issues.

 What is Code Compliance, you ask?  Code Compliance is making sure that work on a property meets with current laws and regulations and can also be used to force property owners to DO work on their property – or even the City property close by.

 For instance, when a street tree (owned by the City) overhangs the sidewalk below 7’, we can be forced by the City to trim the tree to meet Code.  And…that actually happened to us.  Code Compliance sent us a note saying they’d received a complaint about our tree and we had a specific amount of time to fix the problem.

 Frequently, garages are secretly converted to a family room or even a bedroom.  Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!  Illegally converted space canNOT be counted in the square footage of the house.  The property appraiser won’t include it in his/her valuation of the property.  One of our previous neighbors created a bedroom inside his garage with NO window to the outside!  The window was facing into the garage.  The Building Code requires an egress window (egress = exit) for each bedroom, allowing for quick escape in case of an emergency.  Whoever was using that bedroom would merely escape into the garage and then try to find the garage door opener (or use the man-door) – YOU try to do that in panic-mode!

 Other Code Compliance issues also relate to cars stored in the driveway or parked on the street for too long, fence heights and weed abatement, too.

Accident waiting to happen

Here’s a picture of work that was most likely done without a permit.  The ‘landing’ outside the left’ish door, is supposed to be 36” x 36”, so you don’t trip coming out the door.  This pictured landing is obviously just a step (and the steps themselves are different widths!).  As I am a tripping fool, I really need that landing, otherwise I’ll be landing my butt right on down those stairs!

 Bottom line:  Don’t expect someone else to find out what’s what about a property.  You have an obligation to protect yourself.  Be an informed Buyer.