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  1. #1
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    Default How To Report No Permits?

    I've found a brand new 200 amp panel in a newly flipped 70 yr. old residence that doesn't have a county inspection sticker. It needs a conduit for the patio located service entry cable, it has double tapped neutrals, and the interior ground (conveniently 2 feet from the panel, instead of at the water inlet) is a loose connection to a galvanized hot water pipe, on the wrong side of a dielectric union. I'm fairly certain it's not the work of a licensed electrician - and, that a permit probably wasn't pulled for this work, or the remodeled kitchen, the remodeled bathroom, the newly added bathroom in the basement, or the newly finished basement with the no-egress bedroom.

    There is no doubt that the buyer (my client) needs to be made aware of the apparent lack of proper permits, not to mention all the rest of the problems, but I'm thinking that the agent(s) are going to get real nervous about getting the county involved. Not that I'm too concerned about their reactions, but I would still like to get future referrals from them if possible. Does anybody have report wording they like for a situation like this that gets the point across, and protects my client, without causing my being shunned in the future by the agents? I'd very much appreciate any input or suggestions you might have on this.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    Forget about what the agents reaction will be and give your client the information they need. If you can deliver accurate information that protects your clients best interests, just do it. If you are going to be concerned about the agents reactions to accurate information, you need to find another profession.

    Because there is no sticker does not mean there was not a permit pulled. Don't make assumptions. Just report what you see and make the applicable recommendations.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Dirks Jr View Post
    Forget about what the agents reaction will be and give your client the information they need. If you can deliver accurate information that protects your clients best interests, just do it. If you are going to be concerned about the agents reactions to accurate information, you need to find another profession.

    Because there is no sticker does not mean there was not a permit pulled. Don't make assumptions. Just report what you see and make the applicable recommendations.
    Ditto.
    Good advice John.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  4. #4
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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Dirks Jr View Post
    Because there is no sticker does not mean there was not a permit pulled.
    In all of my code inspections, and all the other inspectors I know in the areas where I have done code inspections, *no one* *ever* puts a sticker on showing it passed.

    We will, however, leave a notice of why it did not pass and the code section.

    You are quite correct in saying "Because there is no sticker does not mean there was not a permit pulled.", the better thing to go by is how much is not compliant and how bad is it? That *may* indicate it was not permitted, but even that is no assurance that there was no permit.

    If you suspect there was no permit, recommend your client check with the local building department, they can tell you if there was, and it if passed, or if there was not.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  5. #5
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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Dirks Jr View Post
    Forget about what the agents reaction will be and give your client the information they need. If you can deliver accurate information that protects your clients best interests, just do it. If you are going to be concerned about the agents reactions to accurate information, you need to find another profession.

    John, isn't that just a bit of an overreaction? I'm pretty sure I indicated that I wasn't too concerned about the agent's reactions. And I'm also pretty sure I conveyed that there is no question about reporting everything found, as well as my suspicions about the lack of proper permits - but if I can word it in a way that both does this, and also doesn't burn bridges, why wouldn't a reasonable person want to do that?


  6. #6
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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Chambers View Post
    ... reporting everything found, as well as my suspicions about the lack of proper permits - but if I can word it in a way that both does this, and also doesn't burn bridges, why wouldn't a reasonable person want to do that?
    A reasonable person may want to try to do that, but the reality is that agents are not reasonable people, there are either *no* items requiring correction or *there are problems* which they tend to panic about.

    If you suspect that permits were not pulled, just saying that does not do your client any good, you need to stress that they check with the local building department.

    VERY FEW agents are reasonable, and those who are not reasonable will not want ANY mention of possible work without permits, especially work which raises red flags with the inspector.

    What all here are saying is simply this: Report what you see, DO NOT WORRY about how what you report sounds to the agent - YOU SHOULD BE concerned that you are adequately reporting the information so YOUR CLIENT will be able to quickly and easily grasp the gravity of what you are reporting.

    I did a condition assessment last week down in South Florida for a previous client of mine, one day on site and 3 days on the report, $1.5 mil office building needed ~$850k in repairs PLUS unknown repairs which would need to be discovered by cutting into walls and ceilings to determine the extent of what I found. My client decided not to go forward with the purchase as the seller would not make concessions in the sales price.

    I was not concerned with trying not to burn bridges with agents or the seller, I simply did as I have always done - I communicated what needed repair or replacement and the probable cost of such to the client.

    I am now working with that client on potentially inspecting what he wants to buy now.

    Know what side your bread is buttered on, then know which side landed on the floor before it was picked up ... the un-buttered side can be brushed off (5 second rule ) ...

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Chambers View Post
    John, isn't that just a bit of an overreaction? I'm pretty sure I indicated that I wasn't too concerned about the agent's reactions. And I'm also pretty sure I conveyed that there is no question about reporting everything found, as well as my suspicions about the lack of proper permits - but if I can word it in a way that both does this, and also doesn't burn bridges, why wouldn't a reasonable person want to do that?
    Michael,

    Respectfully towards you, I don't think I overreacted. I believe that if you care even slightly what agents think of you, you'll gradually loose your soul to them.

    I wish you success in business. You can make the right decisions. Do it on a consistent basis and you'll build something that no one can take from you.


  8. #8
    Joe Richmond's Avatar
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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    The term that we use is, 'Recommend further evaluation by the local authority having jurisdiction'. We also tie the no permit observed issue in stating, 'Property appears to have recent renovation, and mechanical upgrades (plumbing, electrical, etc)', then you can state the permit concern. That way your safety concerns tie into your concern for lack of permitable (if that is a word) items requiring a permit.

    Hope this helps.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Chambers View Post
    John, isn't that just a bit of an overreaction? I'm pretty sure I indicated that I wasn't too concerned about the agent's reactions. And I'm also pretty sure I conveyed that there is no question about reporting everything found, as well as my suspicions about the lack of proper permits - but if I can word it in a way that both does this, and also doesn't burn bridges, why wouldn't a reasonable person want to do that?
    What? Overreaction?
    Yes, you have shown your concern and you have also indicated that you want to do what's right for your CLIENT! No matter what you write in your report you will tick somebody off, why not just report what you found and let the chips fall as the will. The way the agents will feel about your findings and report should not enter the equation. Do not write soft reports to make yourself feel better about not upsetting the real estate agents, this is a difficult road to turnaround on once you go down it. Remember that if something goes wrong the agents will throw you under the bus and you will be the one that your client will be calling to fix the problem. It is just not worth it!

    Report what you found pretty much like you posted above; tell them to have a qualified electrician make the corrections and that is all that I would say.

    Unless you are willing to go down and check the permit history on the house I would not even talk about the panel not having a permit sticker on it.

    Last edited by Scott Patterson; 09-17-2012 at 06:39 AM.
    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    Thought I get your thoughts on this similar situation. Several bankster type builders around here do not post permits or a sign boards in front of their homes while under construction as required by county ordinance. While doing pre-drywall inspections I always ask the super about this and he says he keeps them in his truck. I don't know why "they" are allowed to do this while everyone else has to post their permits. I always just say " noted that no permit sign board on job site as required by county ordinance." and leave it at that. Has anyone else seen this?


  11. #11
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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    In all of my code inspections, and all the other inspectors I know in the areas where I have done code inspections, *no one* *ever* puts a sticker on showing it passed.
    JP. In some areas of the country "Stickers" are used extensively. Up where I am in NJ they are used. Plumbing, Electrical, Structure, Fire, for example----forms and fees are needed for each. I assume they use a simular method to indicate Fail (haven't seen one).

    I have 9 or 10 in my garage for various things that have been done. Please don't poo-poo stickers---they have a good purpose such as allowing you, as in this instance, to quickly answer the question "Was a permit pulled for this work?"

    Last edited by Rich Goeken; 09-17-2012 at 07:14 AM. Reason: Add Failed info.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray Thornburg View Post
    Thought I get your thoughts on this similar situation. Several bankster type builders around here do not post permits or a sign boards in front of their homes while under construction as required by county ordinance. While doing pre-drywall inspections I always ask the super about this and he says he keeps them in his truck. I don't know why "they" are allowed to do this while everyone else has to post their permits. I always just say " noted that no permit sign board on job site as required by county ordinance." and leave it at that. Has anyone else seen this?
    I have the same in my area but when the home is dried-in then they stick the permit card in the house, most of the time. It is basically impossible for a builder to build a new home in one of the major areas I work in without a permit. They can not get water or power to the home without a building permit. Also the banks are going to require a copy of the permit before they release the first draw on the home. FYI, most muni's also require that a set of plans is on site but I seldom see them either. I quit worrying about why things are done or not done many, many years ago. I found that it is easier on me if I just report what I find and move on to the next home or client.

    I always snap a picture of the permit and include it in my report and if it is not present I note that as well. If the builder is present and it is not posted I ask to see it so I can take a picture of it. If the builder cannot produce it I say that the builder could not provide the permit to me at the time of the inspection.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

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    Exclamation Re: How To Report No Permits?

    Michael, what others (such as real estate agents) think about how you fulfill your duties to your client is irrelevant. Any concern about real estate agents' opinions of your work is quickly put aside when there are potentially life threatening issues with a property. I like to remind my clients that I would rather not see their names in the death notices of the local paper.

    Some municipalities place inspection notices on ALL items that are inspected and pass (for code inspections). You have the option of checking on your client's behalf; otherwise, note in the report that the work appears to be improper, and that it appears the work may not have had a code / safety inspection. Recommend that the client pursue this.

    In instances like this, your client's welfare, and your future, are too important to be concerned about how some heady real estate agent might react to your words.

    Randall Aldering GHI BAOM MSM
    Housesmithe Inspection
    www.housesmithe.com

  14. #14
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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    This is wording in my report. I would be interested in what others think of it.

    Based on substandard / non standard construction observed, additions / modifications to this property may have been made without the owner having attained permits or inspections from the municipality. Work may have been performed by someone other than a qualified contractor or person. The client should consult with the property owner about this, and if necessary research permits.
    At worst case, if substantial work was performed without permits, this knowledge must be disclosed when the building is sold in the future. Also, the local municipality could require costly alterations to bring the building into legal compliance or even require that the additions or modifications be removed.

    Tom Rees / A Closer Look Home Inspection / Salt Lake City, Utah

  15. #15
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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    We don't use stickers in our area but I have been to areas where they do use stickers.
    It's not my call to say whether they did or did not 'definitely' get a permit for any particular work. It also isn't my place to get the Muni involved in someone's property. My exception to that is if conditions pose an imminent threat to life and public safety.
    I do however check for permits on any NC or home that has had rehab work done. We have an online lookup system here and I also have people I can call. There is a bit of lag time between someone getting a permit and it being posted on the system, so for me to say they definitely did or did not get one is a bit tricky. The vast majority of the time they didn't get one. Around here if someone got a permit, they prefer to show it off. 'Oh, we forget it at the office' is a clear sign they are full of BS.
    Recommendation: Ask Seller to provide the original Municipal permit and any stamped/approved Plans and drawings for newer/recent rehab work done at the building. Various rehab work discussed and contained in this report would typically require a City permit. In the City, violations and requirements run with the building, not the owner. This means you as the owner, would be responsible for any compliance issues related to such past work if the City were to conduct an inspection in the future. Costs for compliance can be substantial. Please see full report for details.
    The preceding is a version of what I use in my reports. Around here, if they didn't get a permit they probably scummed it together. If they did get a permit, it is often times a BS permit just so they had something to put in the window. Checking for permits is crucial. For a rehab / conversion job without permits, if the City comes in later and hammers the new owner, costs can easily run $10K, more or less depending on the situation.

    www.aic-chicago.com
    773/844-4AIC
    "The Code is not a ceiling to reach but a floor to work up from"

  16. #16

    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    If your afraid of pissing off the ones that won't likely sue you and won't stand behind you when you get sued, then how about:

    Recent additions, alterations and/or modifications have been made to.......

    Then finish off with-

    Consult for permits to establish the start of any warranty period.


    But, these people are not your clients. Remember, whether they know it or not, or like it or not, by doing your job, you are also protecting the Realtors.


  17. #17
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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Goeken View Post
    Please don't poo-poo stickers---they have a good purpose such as allowing you, as in this instance, to quickly answer the question "Was a permit pulled for this work?"
    Rich,

    The only thing that a sticker tells you is that ... there is a sticker there.

    That sticker *does not* tell you that it "passed" any inspection and anyone could get hold of some stickers and put them on various things. *I* would not put *any* substance or meaning into finding stickers, other than if the sticker said 'blah-blah 1963' and the sticker *looked old*, then I might think that the sticker was placed there in 1963.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    Good answer Scott...thanks....I guess it kind of peeves me a little that a certain group can ignore the law but I guess that's the world we live in now. It is beneficial to see the permit though so I know what trades were signed off on. With no permit boards posted I wonder how the delivery guys know what lot to go to. Seems silly not to put one up.


  19. #19
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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray Thornburg View Post
    With no permit boards posted I wonder how the delivery guys know what lot to go to.
    Ray,

    Maybe that explains why so many things are wrong in so many of the houses - the material was delivered to the wrong house, the installer simply installs what has been delivered.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  20. #20
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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    I wish that were true Jerry....more likely builders are cheap.....years ago when I used to frame I would sometimes have to go to the house I just finished and knock a few extra boards out so I could finish the one I was on. It always costed me a lot of time and money trying to scrape up enough wood to finish their houses.


  21. #21
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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Meier View Post
    Might be a matter of of opinion but when a sticker is properly filled out it's pretty useful IMO. These are SOP here in NJ.
    All it tells you is that a sticker is on the panel or whatever. It does not tell you that everything is OK!

    Those that put faith in typical code inspections might be in for some surprises down the road!

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  22. #22
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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Meier View Post
    Any proof of inspection including a sticker will not tell you that everything is OK it will only tell you that there has been an inspection.
    Oh, but it's also a pretty good indication that a permit was at least pulled, and that's the only reason to look for one! We all know that Harry Homeowner can go in the day after he gets his final inspection sticker, and make all the questionable changes he wants to, so that's why we don't rely on the municipal inspection anyway. Besides, we're getting paid to do our own inspections, right?

    A couple of you have given me some pretty good examples of exactly what I asked for, without making general assumptions as to who I was more concerned about, or whether or not I might compromise my principles to keep from upsetting an agent, and I thank you for that. I've even gotten a couple of private messages from members with very good suggestions who probably just didn't want to run the gauntlet of this forum, and those (and that) are very much appreciated as well.


  23. #23
    Darrel Hood's Avatar
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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    I don't consider the existence of permits to be relevant to my service. I would simply identify the defects I observed without mentioning permits.

    Also, I would not make a statement that says permits may not have been issued. If I were to address this question, I would only address facts. Either permits were issued, or they were not. In order to reach that degree of certainty, I would have to do research that is not included in the price of the inspection.

    Permits are the purview of code inspectors, which is normally not what we are doing.


  24. #24
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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    Quote Originally Posted by Darrel Hood View Post
    I don't consider the existence of permits to be relevant to my service. I would simply identify the defects I observed without mentioning permits.

    Also, I would not make a statement that says permits may not have been issued. If I were to address this question, I would only address facts. Either permits were issued, or they were not. In order to reach that degree of certainty, I would have to do research that is not included in the price of the inspection.
    Permits are the purview of code inspectors, which is normally not what we are doing.
    If you see something that appears to be newer then the original structure, such as a 200-amp service panel in a 50's house (for example), and you are in a known area that uses stickers, and none are there, you should mention it.

    Not to do so, is a disservice to your customer. They are depending upon you to provide them with a complete snapshot of the house as best you can so they can decide to purchase. Research would be up to your customer, or you if paid, at that point.


  25. #25
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    Default Re: How To Report No Permits?

    I'd very much appreciate any input or suggestions you might have on this.


    How about: "This appears to be new service equipment. Additions or alterations typically require approval and permit from the local municipality. We recommend inquiring about the condition(s) noted


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