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Retroactively Obtaining Home Construction Permits: What Homeowners Need to Know Now

Posted by Justin Havre on Tuesday, November 6th, 2018 at 8:15am.

Buying or Selling a Home With Unpermitted Work? What You Can Do NowLet's face the truth: Obtaining home inspection permits can be time consuming, as there is a navigation process that could seemingly require the expertise of long gone old-world explorers. Not only does it take a lot of time, but the Canadian construction system's rules for gaining permits and paperwork can often be complex, and getting the goods isn't always cheap. So, owner may skimp on such authorizations during a DIY project (or one done by unscrupulous contractors) but if the time to sell arises, that's where troubles can surface.

There's Non-permitted Work on the Home I'm Buying or Selling. What Do I Do Now?

All may seem well and fine with owners and sellers, when suddenly unpermitted work is discovered during a home inspection or through research by a diligent real estate professional. This can occur through discrepancies in the home's size and layout or something as simple as electrical work or outdoor shed being constructed without the proper permission from the neighbourhood, city or province the project occurred within.

Buyers can now opt to negotiate the selling price, buyers can ask the seller to provide the permits, or the buyer can choose to walk away. In the event that the buyer chooses to continue with the purchase of a home, questions still remains for both parties—"Unpermitted work has been performed, so can we get permits now?"

Questions to Ponder About Getting Home Construction Permits After the Fact

As mentioned earlier, proper Canadian construction permits can be costly both before and after the fact. The biggest issue that buyers and sellers face if these issues are discovered prior to the completion of purchase is who pays for the permitting costs? Who plans to go about the complex task of obtaining these permits and any sort of inspections required to get them?

Another issue to contend with is that once steps have been taken to permit work after the fact, what happens if the work isn't up to current compliance codes? Sometimes just getting things inspected properly and up to code can require major work, new design plans and engineering intervention, which can equal big bucks.

Obtaining Retroactive Permits for Home Construction

The good news is that if the work was performed up to standards and is within current construction compliance laws and regulations, then most cities are cooperative concerning issuing the proper paperwork. The bad news is that the inspection crew may have to do a bit of digging behind the walls or remove certain fixtures—literally—to check for things like electrical wiring or plumbing additions. If any issues are discovered, the buyer or seller will need to make proper repairs to obtain the certificate.

This is where the major negotiations between homebuyers, sellers and their respective representatives often begin, because someone ultimately must take responsibility for these costs. Sometimes sellers simply don't want to deal with it, and buyers might be able to get a good deal by accepting the challenge.

Requirements For Selling a Home With Unpermitted Work

A home can be sold with unpermitted work. However, the home seller must disclose the presence of unpermitted work to the buyer. This disclosure must be done through proper channels, in the home-selling documentation. It's important for home sellers to work with their real estate professional to ensure that this paperwork is filled out right. If there are errors or omissions on the paperwork, this could open the seller up to legal risk down the road.

Sellers who want to get the most out of their house at the time that it sells can consider whether or not repairs should be made before putting the house on the market. A home with unpermitted work will almost always sell for less than its value if the work had been permitted. Making repairs and getting retroactive permits can make the home more appealing to home buyers, which could help it sell faster and for more money when the time comes. 

Don't Get Caught With Unpermitted Work

Of course, the best way to avoid dealing with these potential hassles is to get work permits as needed for any West Calgary home. However, if homeowners find themselves trying to sell or wanting to buy a home without proper permits, contact a local real estate professional for guidance before taking another step in the process.

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