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Home Renovations: Do You Need a Permit for That?

You’ve done your research. You’ve created a renovation budget. You’ve come up with a game plan. You’re ready to jump into your next major home project. Except doing so without securing permits may end up costing you big time.

It may come as a surprise to homeowners that many renovations actually require a permit, depending on county regulations. Before starting any work or reaching any agreements with contractors, it’s important to check with your local municipalities to see if you need a permit—and to secure the necessary documentation to proceed. You’ll also want to compare homeowners insurance rates at this point to see how the changes to your home will affect your coverage needs and premiums.

Consequences of Forgoing Permits

What happens if you move forward with a home renovation without securing proper permits? According to Angie’s List, homeowners may face fines if local authorities find out you’ve done work without getting authorization. The contractor on the project may also face professional penalties. You might even have to start the the project over from scratch! If you try to sell your home down the line and an inspector discovers unlicensed renovations, it can complicate the process or even cause buyers to back out of the sale. Beware of any contractors willing to do projects without permits in place; they could be unlicensed or taking illegal shortcuts.

Since permits are handled on a local level and requirements vary by location, it’s always a smart idea to reach out to whichever governing body handles them near you and ask. Yes, permits cost a fee to obtain, but it’s better than getting caught in the act of carrying out an illegal renovation. Plus, as HowStuffWorks points out, getting a permit ensures you’ll have another set of eyes on your plans and inspections to correct mistakes and possible hazards as you go. This extra supervision can prevent a catastrophe or dangerous situation down the line.

Projects Commonly Requiring Permits

So, which projects require permits? While there’s no hard-and-fast rule applicable to every municipality in the U.S., these renovations usually require them: 

  • Installing a fence: Some places require a permit, regardless of the characteristics of the fence. Meanwhile, cities like Chicago only require a permit for fences over five feet.

  • Updating Plumbing/Electrical Systems: Projects like updating pipes and wiring usually require permits. On the bright side, these projects may reduce insurance premiums.

  • Adding a Room, Garage or Deck: Changing the blueprint of your house typically requires a permit, whether you’re adding a structure or altering the layout.

  • Making a New Opening for a Door or Window: If you have to make a new opening for an exterior door, window or skylight, you’ll need a permit.

  • Expensive Projects: Some local building departments require a permit for projects that surpass a certain monetary threshold.

  • Before you start any home renovation, check with your local building authorities and secure the proper permits. Then compare homeowners insurance rates to make sure your policy provides the best coverage at the right price point. Visit CoverHound today for quick quotes!

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    Insurance shopping simplified

    Review personalized quotes, select coverages, and buy online - Everything insurance, all-in-one-place.
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