Why Do I Need A Building Permit?
What exactly are permits? Clients receive so much conflicting information on permits, it is understandable why there is confusion. This conflicting information leads clients to ask “Why do I need a building permit?” Below are the facts and what you need to know.
For most common residential construction and remodeling projects, there are basically two permits:
- Homeowner Association or HOA
- Building Department
Let’s look at each of these separately.
Homeowner Association (Association) or HOA
First, HOA approval has absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with Building Department permits. The two are mutually exclusive. Some projects require HOA approval prior to obtaining a Building Department permit. I will talk about this later.
Homeowner Association or HOA approval is not a permit. It is an authorization to proceed. Every HOA has their own unique rules, regulations, and approval process.
Generally, the focus of the HOA is on the outside of your home. HOAs generally do not care about work you are doing inside your house. There are a few exceptions, mostly for attached housing. If you live within an “Association”, you have Architectural Rules/Guidelines and Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions or CCRs. These CCRs are limits and rules placed on a group of homes or condominium complex. CCR’s originate from the builder and/or developer. Neighborhood or homeowner’s associations modify CCR’s over time. CCR’s and Architectural Rules/Guidelines ensure the character of the neighborhood remains unchanged. They also seek to maintain home values. Work performed outside must not detract from the overall common characteristics of the neighborhood.
What type of projects require HOA approval?
When you purchase a home in an Association, you agree to maintain the home in a fashion that will not detract from the look, feel, and character of the neighborhood. This also means if you perform any work on the outside of the home, it will maintain the overall look and feel of the neighborhood. Let’s look at some examples where you would typically need HOA approval.
- Planting bushes, grass, trees, flowers, etc. outside
- Adding or altering any hardscape (concrete work on driveways and walks, brick, or stonework, etc.)
- Painting the outside of the hose
- Replacing the roof
- New or replacement windows (including skylights)
- Replacing or adding front, side, or backyard doors (including garage doors)
- Room addition
- Fencing and siding
- Pools and spas
- Decks, balcony’s, and patio cover alterations and additions
Why do I need HOA approval?
Let’s look at an example of why you must first get HOA approval before performing outside work. Let’s use new or replacement windows. Windows basically come in 4 types: vinyl, fiberglass, wood, and aluminum. If your home has vinyl windows and you replace with wood windows, this would dramatically change how the outside of your home looks. Since your house would be the only home with wood windows, it would not “fit in” with the other homes. Thus, your house would look different among all the other houses. Therefore, the HOA would likely reject your request for wood windows.
Consider further painting the outside of your house. You decide to paint the outside of your house florescent pink with purple trim. The other homes are in earth tones (browns). I am certain this would upset many folks in the neighborhood and likely reduce home values. Therefore, the HOA would not approve the pink and purple paint.
The HOA’s responsibility is to maintain a semblance of uniformity to the exterior of properties. Their job is to preserve property values and the character of the neighborhood.
According to the California Residential Code, Title 24, Part 2.5, Section R105.1: “Any owner or authorized agent who intends to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish, or change the occupancy of a building or structure, or to erect, install, enlarge, alter, repair, remove, convert or replace any electrical, gas, mechanical or plumbing system, the installation of which is regulated by this code, or to cause any such work to be done, shall first make application to the building official and obtain the required permit.”
Why do I need a building permit? It’s the law!
The purpose of a Building Permit is to protect you, your family, neighbors, and society at large. Building Permits allow the Building Official to enter your home and inspect the work being performed. Their job is to make sure all the work performed is safe and complies with all applicable building codes. Their only job is to make sure you will be safe. It is by far the best and cheapest insurance you will ever buy! Never, absolutely never, skip this vital service.
Perhaps even more important, is the topic of insurance. If you perform any work that requires a permit, and you did not obtain a permit for the work, almost no home insurance company will pay for any damage caused by the unpermitted work. I have personally witnessed this unfortunate situation. A person in the neighborhood where I live did not require his contractor to get a permit to remodel his bathroom.
About 6 months after the work was completed, incorrectly installed electrical in the bathroom burned the house almost to the ground! Because the fire was caused by un-permitted work, his insurance company paid nothing! He filed a lawsuit against the insurance company, and he lost. How much money did he save? Not a dime. He lost all his personal belongings, his house, everything – all in an attempt to save a few dollars. Get permits. Like I said before, it is the best and cheapest insurance you will ever buy!
You need a Building Department Permit for these common residential projects (there are others):
- Additions (room, bathroom, kitchen, garage, ADU, second story, etc.)
- Bathroom, kitchen, powder room, and garage remodels and alterations
- Full interior remodeling
- Removing, moving, altering, or adding any interior or exterior walls
- Any heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC)
- Water heater replacement, alteration, or relocation
- Almost all plumbing related work
- All electrical other than removing and replacing an old appliance or device with a “like” or similar item
- Window replacement, additions, and alterations
- Door replacement, additions, and alterations leading to the exterior and garage
- Stairs . . . includes opening and using the space under the stairs for storage
If you have questions, call DAD’s at (949) 380-0177, your local Building Department, or insurance company.
What Happens If I Don’t Get a Building Department Permit?
Homeowners can be fined. Performing work on your home without the necessary building permits can put you in direct violation of city, state, and federal codes and regulations. You may be subject to penalty charges for failing to obtain the permits needed to lawfully perform the work.
All Cities have Code Enforcement personal. They drive through your community every day. If they observe work being performed on your home and you do not have the necessary permits, you will be fined. Your job will be stopped (red tagged). It will be expensive if you get caught. If the work is completed and you get caught, you will be required to tear it out and start over again – but with a permit this time! It’s not worth it! Get the permit. Again, it is the best and cheapest insurance you will ever buy!!!
HOA Approval and Building Department Permits
There are certain projects that require both. The best examples are additions, windows, decks, balconies, patio covers, roofs, and outside HVAC compressors. These are all outside items. HOA approval is required to ensure the character of the neighborhood is maintained. Building permits are required to ensure the work is performed safely and correctly. If you do not first receive HOA approval, the Building Department will not issue you a building permit.
How Can I Receive More Information on Why I Need Building Permits?
If you would like more information on building permits or enjoying the best bathroom, kitchen, and interior remodeling experience in Orange County, call Dan at (949) 380-0177 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free in home consultation. DAD’s serves all of South Orange County California. This includes Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Foothill Ranch, Portola Hills, Ladera Ranch, Irvine, San Clemente, Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano, Rancho Santa Margarita, Coto de Caza, Dove Canyon, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Hills, Newport Beach, and Aliso Viejo.