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Are You Pulling the Proper Permits and Having Work Inspected?

Real Estate Agent with Inactive until May. 2009

An open letter to Joe the PLUMBER...or CARPENTER...of God forbid, Joe the ELECTRICIAN:


Let me begin by telling you that I think you have a lovely home

You have done much to increase its value since you purchased it so many years ago. I especially admire the work you did when you finished the basement, added the powder room and expanded the kitchen. You have an excellent eye for detail and really know what today's buyers want in their next home! There's only 1 problem...

you never got permits for the work you did.


Now please understand

...I know that you know what you're doing. The work looks pretty good to me. And trust me...I've been in a lot of homes! The problem is that nobody else knows how good you are! And our town enforces their building codes for one simple reason...to keep everybody safe. I understand that it was a pain in the butt to pull permits for a job that you could knock out in a weekend or two. Who needs the extra hassle? Besides... you probably do know more than that part time inspector does, right?! But here's the rub- my buyer doesn't know as much about this stuff as you do. They have 2 small kids and worry all the time about keeping them safe. The thought of moving into a house where the plumbing and electrical work wasn't properly inspected really scares them.

So let me tell you how I work.

When my buyers find a house that they like enough to place an offer on, I go to the town municipal office. It doesn't take that much time, really. I stop by the Tax Assessor's office and pull the property card. It's public information, so they let me see it. I can even copy it for 50 cents if I want to (which I always do for my files). The card shows me how many bedrooms, baths and finished rooms the town thinks you have. It tells me whether the basement is finished or unfinished. Sometimes, I can even find out how many people your septic system is designed to handle. Then I compare what the card says to what I saw when I showed your home to my buyers. If everything is the same, we're good! But sometimes... well sometimes, there are discrepancies. Then I have to go to the office that handles building permits. If I see things in the home that aren't accounted for on the property card, I find out if the proper permits were obtained and closed. You'd be surprised how many times they weren't.

So here's the deal.

My buyers really love your house...and they really want to buy it! But they need to know that they can sleep in it without being afraid. So you're going to need to get this permit thing resolved before closing. You'll need to have the town inspectors come out and check things over. They might need to open up the walls, pull apart the plumbing and even pull out some of the wiring. But they'll probably realize that you did really good work, so everything should be OK, right? I apologize for the inconvenience that this causes...but I have a fiduciary responsibility to my buyers to protect them through my diligence. Since all of this permit stuff is public information, I need to take the extra step and get it for my buyers. If I don't, I worry that I could be found liable in court if something really bad happened. And I hear that my negligence could even create a triple damages award. YIKES... I don't think my E&O would cover that!

Yes Joe, you're right

...you could probably tell us to take a hike and move on to the next buyer. But we live in a full disclosure state. Since I told you and your broker about the discrepancies I found, you're both now aware. That means that you're both going to be responsible for informing the next buyer that all this work was done without permits...or you'll be the ones on the hook. That would probably jam up your marketing plan, and we'd hate feel responsible for it.

It's probably best to get this handled with us still at the table, wouldn't you agree?


So please Joe

...don't just tell me that you did the work properly. Show me by getting the proper permits. My buyers are counting on me to find out...

and I'm going to check!

Comments (1)

Rich LaFayette
CL Properties USA - Sherman Oaks, CA

Great info, thanks!

Jul 05, 2011 04:40 AM