Should Homeowners Remediate Unpermitted Work on Their Homes?
Every Canadian province has its own building codes, permits, and documentation that must be obtained before performing certain home improvements. Unfortunately, some homeowners (or contractors) opt for the shortcut of doing the work without proper permitting. Homeowners who don't pursue permits will learn it's a headache when it comes time to sell the home. For new homeowners who discover unpermitted work long after purchase, it can be a frustrating experience.
Typically, unpermitted work surfaces when a new homeowner purchases a house “as is.” Another common scenario is when they seek to make home improvements and discover illegal work done that wasn't disclosed by the previous owner or wasn't found during a home inspection when the property was purchased. This poses a problem for new homeowners if they eventually want to sell because it decreases the value of their home, or it may cost them a bundle to undo the damage.
Read on to learn the best ways to remediate unpermitted work performed on a property.
The Conditions for Legalising Unpermitted Work
Can homeowners legalise unpermitted work? The short answer is, it depends. Whether work can be legalised will depend upon what type of unpermitted work was done and if it was done safely. In some cases, a homeowner can pursue a retroactive permit to legalise the work if it was done properly. However, if the work isn't up to code standards or breaks zoning requirements, it'll have to be removed.
Depending upon the circumstances, a homeowner may pursue recovery from the previous homeowner or contractor who illegally did the work (the latter if the work was done within the past year).
How to Pursue a Retroactive Building Permit
When illegal construction is found in a property, homeowners should research their options for retroactively securing the required permits. Depending upon the type of work that needs to be legalised, homeowners may need to pay for engineering or other project drawings and present them to their municipal building permit office. If the homeowner themselves performed the work without official approval, they could be on the hook for substantial fines.
Once a retroactive permit is filed, an engineer will come to look at the work. If substandard work is found, it'll need to be corrected and brought up to compliance with current building code standards. If the work was done up to code but not permitted, the homeowner can pursue the retroactive permit to get the work legalised. Either way, action will need to be taken.
How to Remove Unpermitted Work
Typically, the goal of home improvement projects is to increase your return on investment. Unfortunately, there are times in which home improvements cannot be legalised and will need to be removed. This is often the case if there are safety hazards, such as an addition not being structurally sound or the inclusion of low-quality electrical work. Removing unpermitted work can delay plans for new home improvements and is often very costly.
The Rules for Selling a Home Without Legalising Work
Homeowners who want to list their property on the market are required by law to disclose unpermitted work. If they don't want to remediate the problems, in some cases, they can still legally sell the home under the “as is” category. It's important to understand this designation can significantly reduce the value of the home. Getting unpermitted work rectified is usually the cheaper option.
Unpermitted work is a hassle whether it can be legalised or not. The most important thing is to take action either way once it's discovered. Work done not up to code can lead to serious health or safety issues. Homeowners will want to protect themselves and everyone who enters their home.