What Happens When You Buy A Remodeled Home with Unpermitted Work?

What Happens When You Buy A Remodeled Home with Unpermitted Work?


Many home buyers are thrilled to find an opportunity to own a newly remodeled home. After all, the home has everything they dreamed of: new kitchen, spa bathroom, an addition for a larger family room, or even an in-law suite in the basement. Not only does the home have everything you desire, it also just happens to be on one of the best streets in your favorite neighborhood.

What could go wrong? Plenty! If the seller fails to inform you the remodel was completed without proper permits, you could face some very costly consequences.

Understanding Unpermitted Work

Unpermitted work covers a long list of construction and building improvements performed during remodels. For example, structural work, electrical, and plumbing require special permits provided by the city even for what seems like a minor project. These building and construction rules are designed to protect the homeowner from potentially dangerous upgrades. They also ensure work is performed by licensed contractors and tradespeople. However, it is not just unlicensed contractors and tradespeople who decide to proceed with remodel projects without a permit. Licensed contractors and homeowners also do it because it saves them time and money.

How is Unpermitted Work Discovered?

Even if the remodel is years old, once discovered, unpermitted work can lead to a long list of costly headaches. In many cases, unpermitted work is discovered during the construction process. A complaint might come up by neighbors who send an inspector from the city or county to check out the work. This is good for a buyer, as it is the seller who will have to deal with the problems. However, if the unpermitted remodel work is not discovered until searches or other issues pop up during the inspection, or after the purchase, the issues fall on your shoulders.

What are the Consequences of Unpermitted Work?

 If you purchase a remodeled home with unpermitted work, the following could occur:


  • If discovered, the municipality can direct you to acquire permits and redo the remodel to bring the house up to code. The downside – you’ll have to pay for it!.

  • Municipalities can impose fines/penalties if you fail to complete the work as required. The downside – you’ll have to pay for it!


Both scenarios can be quite costly, but there is action you can take should you find yourself in this situation.

Taking Legal Action

If you still have your heart set on the home, your real estate attorney could include specifics in the contract to protect you from this situation. Then, the seller would be required to inform you about unpermitted work. Should the seller make a misrepresentation, you can sue for all related costs to resolve the issue. This includes not only fines, permit costs, and bringing the home up to code, but possibly legal fees paid to proceed with the lawsuit. Even better – with proper research prior to purchasing the home with the assistance of your real estate attorney and real estate agent, you can avoid proceeding with the home purchase. 


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