How Can You Avoid A Building Permit?

  • 3 min read

Embarking on a home remodel or repair project can be an exciting but challenging endeavor. One common question that arises is whether a building permit is necessary for the proposed work. In this blog, we will explore scenarios where pulling a permit might be exempted and the potential repercussions of undertaking non-permitted construction. While it may seem tempting to skip the permit process, understanding the exemptions and consequences is crucial.

When is a Permit Not Required?

Firstly, it’s essential to know when a permit might not be required. Exemptions vary across regions, and we’ll examine an example from Lane County, Oregon, which is representative of many areas. However, exemptions typically apply only to residential projects, and commercial properties are subject to different rules.

Permit Exemptions for Residential Projects

  1. Non-Habitable Structures: One-story detached accessory structures, like sheds or playhouses, under 200 square feet and 10 feet in height, may be exempted.
  2. Fences: Fences less than seven feet, or eight feet for wire or chain link (except around swimming pools), might not require a permit.
  3. Retaining Walls: If not supporting a building and not retaining material impacting a structure, retaining walls may be exempt.
  4. Sidewalks, Driveways, Painting, Tiling: Minor exterior work, such as sidewalks, driveways, painting, tiling, cabinets, and interior trim work, might be exempt.
  5. Prefab Swimming Pools, Swings, Playground Equipment: Certain recreational structures may not necessitate a permit.
  6. Patio and Porch Covers: Covers under 200 square feet not supported by an exterior building wall may be exempt.
  7. Electrical, Plumbing, and Mechanical Work: Minor electrical, plumbing, and mechanical work, along with owner-occupied exemptions, may apply.

Understanding the Permit Process

While exemptions exist, understanding when a permit is required is crucial. Some scenarios include adding a room, finishing an unfinished space, cutting a new window opening, or building a deck over 30 inches in height. Excavation involving moving more than 50 cubic yards of earth also typically requires a permit.

Potential Issues with Non-Permitted Work

Skipping a permit may seem like a time and cost-saving measure, but it can lead to significant problems:

  1. Sale and Appraisal Issues: Unpermitted work can complicate property sales, as appraisers may identify discrepancies that raise concerns for lenders.
  2. Financial Implications: Lenders may hesitate to approve loans for properties with unpermitted work, impacting potential buyers.
  3. Tax Assessment Challenges: Tax assessors may notice changes in property structures during aerial inspections, leading to increased taxes or bureaucratic complications.
  4. Refinancing and Home Equity Loan Hurdles: Unpermitted work can pose obstacles when seeking to refinance or secure a home equity loan.
  5. Discoverability: Non-permitted work can be discovered through various means, such as appraisals, aerial inspections, or physical examinations during property transactions.

To Protect or to Permit?

While exemptions offer flexibility, careful consideration is necessary before deciding to forego a building permit. The consequences of non-permitted work can extend beyond the immediate construction phase and impact the property’s future. Whether driven by financial or convenience concerns, homeowners and contractors must weigh the benefits of exemptions against the potential risks, ensuring that their investment remains sound and legally compliant in the long run.

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