Why Do I Need a Building Permit?

Spring is here and you’re thinking about doing some renovations on your home. Maybe you’re having a new roof put on, a new kitchen installed, or building a new deck. You’ve heard about building permits, but do you really need to apply for one? What are the implications if you don’t? And how much do they cost?

Permits are required to protect your health and safety, and the health and safety of the community where you live. Town staff review your improvement requests and ensure that all changes align with minimum safety and community standards (referred to as “Code”). Permits (building, electrical, plumbing, etc.) typically cost approximately $25 per $1000 of the estimated improvement cost, but it will vary from town to town.

If you’re not doing the improvements on your own, always hire a licensed contractor. They should pull the necessary permits for you. Ask them if they plan on pulling permits on your behalf for the job. Any reputable contractor will say “Yes.” If they don’t, request that they do pull a permit, or consider hiring someone else. Ask for copies of the permits before they start the work. Once they finish the job, the contractor should schedule a time for the town inspector to come through and verify that the work performed meets Code. Your permit will then be closed and the work has been legally and safely performed, per the town. A Certificate of Occupancy will be generated, if applicable. Always keep this documentation for your records. It will be valuable for legal purposes and if you later sell your home.

If you’re planning on doing the work on your own, call the town Permits and Licenses division in order to understand exactly what permits you need. They will guide you through the paperwork process. When you’re finished with the improvements, you’ll need to schedule a time for the town inspector to verify the work meets Code. Again, your permit will be closed if the work has been legally and safely performed and meets building code.

But what happens if permits are not pulled? If you choose not to pull permits and it is discovered by the town or a future buyer, you could have a costly situation on your hands. Work that has been done and paid for may not comply with Code. The work may need to be removed. Imagine ripping out your new bathroom because it didn’t meet plumbing code! Additionally, insurance coverage could be denied. You may be fined for not pulling a permit before the work was performed. Legal action could be initiated to ensure compliance.

So, in order to avoid a potentially costly situation down the line, always call the Permits and Licenses division in your town to understand what permits you need for your specific project.

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