In many cases, a permit is required for home improvements. Rules on which types of projects require permits vary from one city or town to another. In general, permits are required for plumbing and electrical work and for renovations that will change the layout or square footage of a house.
Building permits are required in some cases to keep property owners, people who may visit a house and future owners safe. When you get a building permit, the local government will send an inspector to your home to check the quality of the work and to make sure it meets code. In some cases, inspectors will come out more than once to inspect the work at different stages.
Why You Should Always Get a Permit When Required
Permits can be expensive, and sometimes homeowners decide to have work done without a permit or contractors offer to perform unpermitted work to keep the total project cost low. Beware of a contractor who offers to complete home renovations without getting a permit. The company may not be licensed and insured and may use products and methods that can make your home unsafe. If the work is done without a permit and isn’t inspected, you may not know if the contractor cuts corners and puts your family in danger – until something happens and someone gets hurt.
Your Insurer Can Deny a Claim Related to Work Done Without a Permit
If you don’t get a permit for a DIY project, or if you hire a contractor who doesn’t obtain a necessary permit, that can come back to bite you if you need to file a homeowners insurance claim. If a project is done without a permit and a mistake causes property damage, your homeowners insurance company can deem you negligent because you failed to get a permit and have the work inspected as required. The company can therefore deny your claim. In that case, you will have to pay for the cost of repairs out of your own pocket. If someone gets injured because of a faulty renovation project, you can be held liable for that person’s medical bills.
Failing to secure a required permit for a home improvement project can also affect the terms of your insurance coverage. The company may raise your premiums or even cancel your policy altogether.
What to Do If You Already had Unpermitted Home Improvements Done
If you had work performed without a permit and you’re concerned about potential effects on your homeowners insurance coverage, you may be able to address the issue through remediation. You can notify your insurer that you had unpermitted work done and have it inspected to see if it meets code. If it does and you pay any relevant permit fees and fines, your homeowners insurance policy can cover the upgrades you made. If the work doesn’t meet code, you can have repairs done to bring your home into compliance.