Do I Need a Building Permit?


Gary Kelley, Realtor®
Gary Kelley, Realtor –
[email protected]

The ever-vigilant Diane Sabatini’s article reminder came during breakfast at Chet’s Diner. “What should I write about?” Permits said my friend the building inspector, “Too many people think permits are a bad thing…and they are there for the safety of the homeowners. “

Minor repairs may not require permits. Significant overhauls, such as adding a room, tearing down walls, electrical or re-roofing, will. A permit is issued by the appropriate authorities allowing construction or renovations following specific standards and regulations. Obtaining a permit will ensure the construction work meets the necessary building codes and laws and adheres to the safety standards. It also confirms the renovations are legally compliant with your area’s zoning requirements, utility limitations, or environmental laws.


Check If You Have Any Open Permits

Before starting any new construction or renovation, check the building department to determine if there are any open permits from previous projects. Most towns have online access.   An open permit means the building department did not approve closure of the prior project.  Failure to close permits means even after finishing the renovation you may experience difficulties reselling or refinancing your property as the inspection and assessments were never updated.  It’s a good idea to check for open permits whether a new project is envisioned or not.


Have a Concrete Plan

Ensure you have a well-detailed plan. This entails taking measurements, creating sketches, and bringing in a licensed designer or architect. A comprehensive plan will enable you to have realistic expectations of the project, helping avoid revisions, cost overruns or changes midway during the construction.

Home renovations must meet specific standards and requirements concerning plumbing, electrical, and structural work. The plan must include all the dimensions and placement of fixtures, ductworks, and the renovation’s overall architecture. Detailed plans will help contractors understand the scope of the project, determine the required permits and materials required, and ease the project’s approval process.


Let the Contractor Pull the Permit

If using a contractor let them pull the permit.  Don’t get sucked in the opening permits for contractors!  Contractors know about the code requirements and safety standards, including any changes and requirements made to head the area’s unique features, including weather patterns and zoning requirements. They can also keep track of inspection schedules and ensure all the documentation required to pull the permit is available, saving the homeowner time and energy. Handing over the responsibility of obtaining the permit and following the requirements to an expert in the field will increase the chances of receiving timely approval and keeping the structure safe.

Once the dumpster arrives everyone has a sense work is happening in the house…and it isn’t always “decluttering.”


Make Sure the Contractor Closes the Permit

After fulfilling all the obligations mentioned in the permit, including the final inspection requirements, homeowners must ensure the contractor closes the permit. This marks the end of construction, and compliance with all codes and regulations is attained.  We recently had a home with eleven open permits….some easily closed and others requiring final inspections.  Some contractors leave permits open so they can do subsequent work….a practice building inspectors will sniff out.  Roofers seem to often forget to close permits, and so just check all permits are closed.  (If the permit was opened eons ago, it may be very difficult to close as building codes change.  That’s a story for a different day)

If in doubt, check with your City/Town about the necessity of a permit for envisioned work.  It’s better to get the right answer now than when trying to sell a home.

Here is free app for your phone/tablet tied directly to the MLS

Gary is heard on WCRN AM 830 and/or seen on WMCT-TV and Westborough Community Television discussing “All Things Real Estate.”

If you need advice on selling your home or buying a new one, give us a call 508-733-6005.


Do I Need a Building Permit?

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