What to tell my client about permits

It was obvious in an inspection today that there were no permits pulled for several do it yourself projects. What should I have the buyer do if they look as if they were done incorrectly? Also should the buyer worry about fines and back taxes or will that fall on the shoulders of the owner since it will be in my report?


The RE lawyer should address any fines/back taxes, but that is not even in the same ballpark as home inspection.

Got any pics of the DIY items? Then we can be more specific with verbiage.

My standard verbiage:

Thanks for the replies. I think I will be doing something similar to Michael’s verbiage.

Thanks again


“Additions or alterations have been made to this property. Therefore, you should request documentation that should include permits and any warranties or guarantees that might be applicable, because we do not approve of, or tacitly endorse, any work that was completed without permits or by unlicensed contractors, and latent defects could exist.”

This paragraph appears on the front cover page of each one of my reports:

***Additions/Alterations: NONE APPARENT ***
***NOTE: It is always wise to check with local building departments ***
for permit information, especially if additions or alterations are noted.

I think the only way you would have any problems in my local area unless you were doing exterior work in a flood plain area because basically, they do not want those houses in that area anyway and they were built before current laws were enacted.

Open permits will follow the new owner.

If they try to get a new permit when one is open, they will have to close the first one first. This may cost thousands if things are not to code, the permit and inspection fees and fines.

I catch these very often.
When there are numerous “small issues” that you know would not get past even the most back-woods inspector are present, I always recommend the client call the codes dpt and see what is on record.

Home owners can do their own work, but they still must get a permit.
Not all permits are inspected in the end.
So bad work gets by.
It’s those no-permit or open permits that get them in the pocketbook.

**Do not place yourself in a position of liability that could be costly to correct. Recently, I inspected a house that had an office installed where the two-car garage had been down-sized to a one-car garage. The City clearly did not allow this—if it is a two-car garage today, it will be a two-car garage tomorrow. The current owner became responsible for permit applications (which were denied) and has been required to restore the house to its original state—a two-car garage and no office. There was also some question if a new downstairs bathroom may have to be removed, as well. And the current owner did not change the garage, it was that way when he bought the property—but he assumed the liability for any consequences. This is a great expense, but the house may not be sold as it is, nor may it be left that way. Also, there were no permits for a new roof, furnace, or electrical upgrade. By calling the City, the buyer avoided a very serious potential liability and an unneeded expense. **

Admonishment from my report system…