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  1. #1

    Default Building Permits

    Hopefully some veterans out there can answer this for me. When do you call to check if permits have been pulled? Do any of you call the building department in your city for a rundown on permits before you do an inspection or do you wait for a significant defect/remodel to do so? If you wait, do you call the City, or do you have your client do this on their time?

    I'm asking because I'm thinking dozens of inspectors calling for permits would overwhelm them but I'm looking for a baseline here on common practices. Thanks in advance.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    I don't do it at all. That's up to the customer and/or their realtor, in my opinion. I'd have to charge for it, as I don't really have the time this time of year.

    Jim Robinson
    New Mexico, USA

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    I never do it ahead of time. Sometimes I do it once I have done the inspection and put it in the report. Usually isn't necessary, I know they didn't pull a permit. If the owner/contractor/developer swears they did but somehow don't have a copy; and things look suspicious, I look it up just to stick it to them.
    If they pulled one, it's usually a BS permit that doesn't cover what they actually did.

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  4. #4
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Quote Originally Posted by Brent Consie View Post
    Hopefully some veterans out there can answer this for me. When do you call to check if permits have been pulled? Do any of you call the building department in your city for a rundown on permits before you do an inspection or do you wait for a significant defect/remodel to do so? If you wait, do you call the City, or do you have your client do this on their time?

    I'm asking because I'm thinking dozens of inspectors calling for permits would overwhelm them but I'm looking for a baseline here on common practices. Thanks in advance.
    Way to involved and the getting involved takes sometimes a lot of time with the back and forth and involvement beyond the standard home inspection and if you do it then you should charge handsomely for it.

    You become the heavy when the inspector comes and sees the 600 square foot addition and it is not even your clients home. Good bad or indifferent your name get pushed all over the market as someone not to get involved with.

    Your client can make the call as easy as you. Let them be the bad guy.


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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Home Page

    Online data base for oil tanks and new to site, Building permit search. Works well
    Talk to erik terranova (800) 6240470
    Tell him i sent you
    Wayne Soper


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Not paid enough to do that kind of legwork.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    This is a good example of an additional service you may offer to the customer.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Permits mean nothing to me, I don't care who did the work and I am not in the policing business. Who actually sees permitted work that is always correct? Permits should be irrelevant to home inspectors and have no bearing on how they perform their jobs.

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

  9. #9

    Default Re: Building Permits

    Gentlemen, Thanks for responding and for the good advice. Ted, I didn't think of it that way and will heed the warning. Then I don't have to play bad guy and call attention to a bad deck job on a house not yet purchased. That could get your name in some trouble fast. Didn't think of that angle.

    Wayne, I'm going to check out your lead because it would be nice to know about what permits are pulled and see if the homeowner is honest when the home buyer asks.


    Thanks for the information, boys.

    Last edited by Brent Consie; 06-24-2011 at 07:45 PM. Reason: clarity
    Brent Consie
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  10. #10
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Quote Originally Posted by Brent Consie View Post
    Gentlemen, Thanks for responding and for the good advice. Ted, I didn't think of it that way and will heed the warning. Then I don't have to play bad guy and call attention to a bad deck job on a house not yet purchased. That could get your name in some trouble fast. Didn't think of that angle.

    Wayne, I'm going to check out your lead because it would be nice to know about what permits are pulled and see if the homeowner is honest when the home buyer asks.


    Thanks for the information, boys.
    Now I did not say that you should not write everything up. Write away, everything you find. Just getting involved in permits is a whole other story and involvement. Give the folks a number if you wish. I just do not think it is worth the involvement is worth it unless you are getting paid. All you get money for is your time. Aggravation beyond a home inspection is worth more to me than the home inspection so I would charge heavily. I am at a home inspection to look out for my clients. Not to get grief.


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    I have a general comment that I use on nearly every house, it goes something like this:

    Remodeling has taken place in the home. Most communities require permits for replacement of roofing, siding, windows, doors and any plumbing, gas, or electrical alterations. Permits are generally required for any alteration of the framing or foundation of the building and adding or attaching any structure to the home, and finishing basements. We suggest verification that the proper permits and inspections have been obtained.
    Both Minneapolis and St Paul have online permit searches and I'll generally take a look at them the evening before the inspection. If there are open permits I'll let my clients know. Most of the cities in my area also require Time of Sale, or Truth in Housing inspections. Basically the seller has to have a city contractor or city inspector out to do a simple checklist inspection. Both Minneapolis and St Paul have those documents online as well and I'll read them the evening before the inspection.

    About 4 years ago I inspected a house with new hardi plank siding installed and it was done incorrectly. No flashing, incorrect nailing...the works. This was the first time I wrote that statement into the report, advised the client it was done incorrectly, provided them (and their agent) with a copy of the Hardi installation instructions and told them to get an estimate from a contractor for immediate repairs.
    About 2 months passed and I got a call from the buyer who stated they closed on the house and the following week a city inspector came to look at the siding because there was an open permit. He looked at it, told them it was done incorrectly, gave them 30 days to correct it and specified it had to be done by a licensed contractor (as the previous homeowner had pulled a permit themselves and screwed it up). The buyer contacted three contractors and the lowest estimate for the repairs was over $14,000. I asked her why she hadn't followed my advice and she stated her agent said the permits were closed and I didn't know what I was talking about so they chose to believe the agent. The buyers agent lost in court and I was never sued.

    No, I don't charge extra to help protect my clients.

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  12. #12
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Rowe View Post
    I have a general comment that I use on nearly every house, it goes something like this:



    Both Minneapolis and St Paul have online permit searches and I'll generally take a look at them the evening before the inspection. If there are open permits I'll let my clients know. Most of the cities in my area also require Time of Sale, or Truth in Housing inspections. Basically the seller has to have a city contractor or city inspector out to do a simple checklist inspection. Both Minneapolis and St Paul have those documents online as well and I'll read them the evening before the inspection.

    About 4 years ago I inspected a house with new hardi plank siding installed and it was done incorrectly. No flashing, incorrect nailing...the works. This was the first time I wrote that statement into the report, advised the client it was done incorrectly, provided them (and their agent) with a copy of the Hardi installation instructions and told them to get an estimate from a contractor for immediate repairs.
    About 2 months passed and I got a call from the buyer who stated they closed on the house and the following week a city inspector came to look at the siding because there was an open permit. He looked at it, told them it was done incorrectly, gave them 30 days to correct it and specified it had to be done by a licensed contractor (as the previous homeowner had pulled a permit themselves and screwed it up). The buyer contacted three contractors and the lowest estimate for the repairs was over $14,000. I asked her why she hadn't followed my advice and she stated her agent said the permits were closed and I didn't know what I was talking about so they chose to believe the agent. The buyers agent lost in court and I was never sued.

    No, I don't charge extra to help protect my clients.
    Sorry Ken b ut you did help your client. You advised and they did not listen. You could have never been sued because you did you job and advised. You make it sound like the world of inspectors are all screwed up for not helping theirs clients........ You did. You advised.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    We get $100 min to pull permits, local only.

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    Default Re: Building Permits

    If a home inspector finds obvious signs of remodeling, and its done incorrectly and we know a permit should have been pulled, why would we not mention this to our client? Aren't our clients paying for our knowledge along with our time?

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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post
    Sorry Ken b ut you did help your client. You advised and they did not listen. You could have never been sued because you did you job and advised. You make it sound like the world of inspectors are all screwed up for not helping theirs clients........ You did. You advised.
    That's right, I did. My point is that inspectors should be advising their clients to check the permits so the inspectors don't get sued.

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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Our company provides this as a service for our clients. Many of our clients are too busy or dont have the time to do this for theirself. We suggest this to them when they order the inspection.

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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Quote Originally Posted by Marc M View Post
    Our company provides this as a service for our clients. Many of our clients are too busy or dont have the time to do this for theirself. We suggest this to them when they order the inspection.
    So if the agent orders the inspection but doesn't order the $100 permit check do you advise the clients to check it on their own? Do you advise the client to do it in the inspection report?

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  18. #18
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    My generally stock wording is to the effect that work normally requiring a permit was done. You should investigate with the municipal entity that the permit was pulled and proper inspections were done.
    Usually it's not hard to determine if the permit/inspection process was bypassed. Like the one with 20 missing piers in the crawl space. Or the missing insulation in the attic. Nurse Brown's work is pretty easy to spot.

    JLMathis


  19. #19
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    In NC this is an item on the seller disclosure so the burden is on the seller to disclose if any unpermited work was done. I inspected a house two weeks ago that the deal fell through because the seller had done a complete renovation with no permits. He was honest enough to admit it. Also in NC unpermited space can not be counted as heated square footage in the house so the seller agent is on the hook to check the permits when they measure and list the house. That is enough folks doing the permit thing. As a side note I have helped several sellers get unpermited work permitted.


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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Rowe View Post
    So if the agent orders the inspection but doesn't order the $100 permit check do you advise the clients to check it on their own? Do you advise the client to do it in the inspection report?
    Yea, if I can. A lot of the time when agents order for their clients, we dont have access to their contact info until I see them. But, you bet; I suggest it on most all older houses that have had obvious improvments. Even if they do it themselves, i still suggest it. If anything, it's good CYA.

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  21. #21
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Ken brings up a couple very important points.
    Obviously if you don't know how to check for permits it can be a PIA. However as an inspector you should at least be knowledgeable about local means in order to advise your clients. Some muni's have good systems others don't. We also have online search capability. Takes only a few minutes, not really a hassle. If you aren't going to do it fine but at least know what to tell the client if they ask or put a link in your report.
    In Chicago, violations 'run with the building'. What this means is that the current owner is responsible for any violations, required permits for past work, fines or remediation. I can't count how many illegal attic conversions I've inspected. Compliant repair, permits, etc can run $10K-50K+ to absolute removal. Advising your clients of such potential issues should be standard practice.
    As a standard practice I do not rat out Sellers except if there is eminent danger to the public health and safety. I don't really care what the Seller did to their home. I'm only concerned with my client knowing the conditions and being able to make an informed decision.

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  22. #22
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Quote Originally Posted by Markus Keller View Post
    In Chicago, violations 'run with the building'. What this means is that the current owner is responsible for any violations, required permits for past work, fines or remediation.
    This brings up an interesting issue. WTTW ran their story on the concrete block construction in Chicago. Mucho problems. As was told in the story, the current owners are stuck with making repairs. Funny how they can't go back to the city which approved the construction that had violations. Now, as most municipalities will do, they dump the problem on the people who pay the city to make sure everything is good to go. Why can't home inspectors get off so easy?

    I've got a letter from our village attorney that says even if they approved problematic workmanship they are not responsible for any consequences. Pretty nice huh?
    Sorry to say but I think the permit process is a sickening joke and most people have no clue as to how deficient it is.

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Beware, there is a business that calls home inspectors that offers a monthly service that allows you to pull any permit history on a home.

    They claim its an add on service that your customers can appreciate having knowledge of.

    I told them I couldn't give a rats arse about it, and my client could go down to the local building dept. and get those requested if need be. Why would I pay for that service?

    rick


  24. #24
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Quote Originally Posted by Marc M View Post
    Yea, if I can. A lot of the time when agents order for their clients, we dont have access to their contact info until I see them. But, you bet; I suggest it on most all older houses that have had obvious improvments. Even if they do it themselves, i still suggest it. If anything, it's good CYA.

    Not entirely sure but I think I am sure you are saying that your Realtors that refer you directly do not even pass on the info as to how to contact the clients. At the very very least a referral should be, in my mind, your name and number and at least a website for your company passed on to potential clients or the clients name and number at the very very least past on to you. But to literally set up the appointment for you and you meet the client and get their info at the inspection. Not to be a smart arse but I am assuming you are a very seriously busy inspector. You say you do a couple a day yourself and I believe at least another inspector. Just curious on what you would do if Realtors where kept 100% out of the inspector referral business.

    Not trying to stir things up but I just have this thing with Realtor referrals. I love them when I get them of course but I would not go hungry or be out of work with out them. I am in the belief department that Realtors that make thousands per sale should not be referring any inspector, inspector firm or association.

    Back to permit checking. When I was a builder I pulled permits and checked on the status of work that was done on whether there were permits pulled. As an inspector I advise my clients as to how to check on permits and pass that information off quite frequently. Have I ever checked on it for say a single mom or some situation like that, sure. Not a habit or part of my business. I am home inspector.

    As far as what Rick said about the permit checking fee. I was approached on that one as well. Rather silly but if a client wanted to use such a company then go for it. I advbiase them as what route to take on my findings. I did my job.


  25. #25
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post
    Not trying to stir things up but I just have this thing with Realtor referrals. I love them when I get them of course but I would not go hungry or be out of work with out them. I am in the belief department that Realtors that make thousands per sale should not be referring any inspector, inspector firm or association.
    I've heard this from you over and over. You hate when other inspectors take realtor referrals, but love when you get them. I'll put it point blank for you. An inspector cannot support a family doing buyers inspections without realtor referrals. You can argue it all you want. Take away the spouse's income, what you already have in the bank, and take away all the the inspections you've done from word of mouth referrals that originated from a realtor referral.

    Just because an inspector takes real estate referrals or even markets to agents doesn't make them a bad inspector. I've blacklisted many agents who've asked me point blank to write a soft report. Since the first of this year I've done 17 inspections referred by previous clients, 11 direct from my website, 3 from the ASHI website, and 93 real estate referrals. Of those 17 referrals from previous clients ALL of them originated from realtor referrals.

    But, when an agent calls to schedule and inspection for the client I always get their contact information

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  26. #26
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    My first two inspections next week I do not have a clue who the buyers are or if they will be at the inspection but I do have my contracts back so I know their name. The inspections were setup buy their agents. I do the same inspection no matter what so how I get there does not really matter to me. Both of the agents had a deal go south in the past three weeks due to my inspection so I guess they like the way I do business by putting the buyer first. One of the agents booked the inspection while out of the country and will not be there.


  27. #27
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    hey all

    if i see all this remodeling stuff on the mls--i will ask client if they want me to check on proper permits--and if they say yes --i charge them for my services--i agree with Ken--we are hired to provide a service to client--and i don't want to miss anything if i can help it--if client says no to my charge--i advise them to call city and check on their own--and it is in my inspection agreement just in case something comes up

    cvf


  28. #28
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Rowe View Post
    I've heard this from you over and over. You hate when other inspectors take realtor referrals, but love when you get them. I'll put it point blank for you. An inspector cannot support a family doing buyers inspections without realtor referrals. You can argue it all you want. Take away the spouse's income, what you already have in the bank, and take away all the the inspections you've done from word of mouth referrals that originated from a realtor referral.

    Just because an inspector takes real estate referrals or even markets to agents doesn't make them a bad inspector. I've blacklisted many agents who've asked me point blank to write a soft report. Since the first of this year I've done 17 inspections referred by previous clients, 11 direct from my website, 3 from the ASHI website, and 93 real estate referrals. Of those 17 referrals from previous clients ALL of them originated from realtor referrals.

    But, when an agent calls to schedule and inspection for the client I always get their contact information

    Well, very good for you. All I can say is , WOW.

    Since the beginning of the year I can say that if I thought hard enough about it I could contribute almost all of my in inspections from my website and previous client referrals. As a matter of fact I can turn your numbers almost completely around. Most from my website and referrals from past clients and a very small amount from A Realtor referrals. Just a fact of life. I did not say that you are a bad inspector or any particular inspector is a bad inspector for getting realtor referrals, well, maybe several inspectors that I know that cater to the whims of Realtors and play the light and easy report game.

    My point Ken, which I constantly tell you and anyone else is that the amount of direct stories we hear just on here and from fellow inspectors about Realtors trying to in influence and run the show ........ makes it an extremely bad policy for Realtors to be in the Inspector referral business.

    I am not sure why you take anything else from what I say. It is just bad policy knowing full well that there are a multitude of inspectors out there that are getting influenced and absolutely loving it. Put a roast chicken in front of a hungry man that has not eaten for a while and before you can take it back he is going to eat it. When those roasted chickens are constantly in front of him and there is always that threat of the chickens being taken back and there becomes a very large chance that in some way that hungry man will let someone influence his decision making. That absolutely clear and undeniable truth makes it bad policy for Realtors to be in the referral business.

    If it were not for my website and previous clients buying new homes and or referring me to their friends and family Ken, I would have been out of business a very, very, very long time ago. And that is as truthful as I can possibly be Ken. I am truly sorry if the truths I told above bother you in some way but they are in fact all thruths.

    Have a nice day Ken. Again, never meant to offend. I live almost solely from past clients that I got myself and my website. The Realtors that do refer me were referred to the Realtors by my clients and picked me up.

    Throw all the numbers above away. Use these figures and they are stretching the factual to the plus side of Realtor referrals. About 25% of my inspections come from Realtors referrals. Your numbers obviously vary Ken. I come from the old school where I get my work from past jobs. The internet has only been in (and certainly in the beginning years of the internet almost nothing in the way of work) my life for 20 years or less of my 40 years of working. I am now 57. Unless I am mistaken, my kids are about your age in the mid 30s. It used to be a different world. Some good, some bad things are either still around or not around any longer. I had to always make my clients happy or I would never have work. That holds true today. I think that is a good thing. The folks that hire me to inspect are my bread and butter and they are the only thing on my mind when i am inspecting. THE PLEASING OF ANYONE ELSE AT ALL NEVER, AND I MEAN NEVER, ENTERS MY MIND.

    The red highlight in the quote from you. Absolute horse pucky. I guess I am the fact that blows the hell out of that quote. Do I enjoy those 25% of my inspections? Yep, sure do but they do not come at a blink of an eye. They come from Realtors that tried it the other way and settled on them being shoved aside and me doing what MY CLIENTS ARE PAYING ME FOR. I may not be getting rich and I would love more work in this slow climate we are in but I just cannot do it any other way.


  29. #29
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    ted

    there you go again as ken said--I HAVE THIS THING FOR REALTOR REFERRALS--BUT I LOVE WHEN I GET THEM. please stop contradicting yourself and let it go. read your replys and live by them. i get at least fifty referrals from the sellers agent after they read my no holds barred report. and i don't hide anything. sorry without agents it's a hard world out there. gain their respect about how thorough you are and they will know their place at an inspection and that is at a coffee shop and not the inspection. please ted stop with the contradictions--next time tell us straight up--I DON'T TAKE AGENTS REFERRALS ==or be quiet

    cvf


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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post
    Not entirely sure but I think I am sure you are saying that your Realtors that refer you directly do not even pass on the info as to how to contact the clients. At the very very least a referral should be, in my mind, your name and number and at least a website for your company passed on to potential clients or the clients name and number at the very very least past on to you. But to literally set up the appointment for you and you meet the client and get their info at the inspection. Not to be a smart arse but I am assuming you are a very seriously busy inspector. You say you do a couple a day yourself and I believe at least another inspector. Just curious on what you would do if Realtors where kept 100% out of the inspector referral business.

    Not trying to stir things up but I just have this thing with Realtor referrals. I love them when I get them of course but I would not go hungry or be out of work with out them. I am in the belief department that Realtors that make thousands per sale should not be referring any inspector, inspector firm or association.

    Back to permit checking. When I was a builder I pulled permits and checked on the status of work that was done on whether there were permits pulled. As an inspector I advise my clients as to how to check on permits and pass that information off quite frequently. Have I ever checked on it for say a single mom or some situation like that, sure. Not a habit or part of my business. I am home inspector.

    As far as what Rick said about the permit checking fee. I was approached on that one as well. Rather silly but if a client wanted to use such a company then go for it. I advbiase them as what route to take on my findings. I did my job.
    Most of the appointments, about 1/2 are actually set by the agents. Afterwhich, my office will send out a confirmation so the client will know the price, date time and fee (and if they want any add-ons i.e., infrared, permits, other inspections etc...). I personally never speak to clients (anyone) trying to set up an inspection.You have to trust me when I say, I wish we had more interaction with clients. That way, the agents wouldnt have the oppertunity to choose for the client. yes it is good to have a deep referral network, but we could do so much more business without them (agents) doing it this way. But for now, I'm not going to complain.

    Last edited by Marc M; 06-25-2011 at 09:07 PM.
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  31. #31
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Quote Originally Posted by CHARLIE VAN FLEET View Post
    ted

    there you go again as ken said--I HAVE THIS THING FOR REALTOR REFERRALS--BUT I LOVE WHEN I GET THEM. please stop contradicting yourself and let it go. read your replys and live by them. i get at least fifty referrals from the sellers agent after they read my no holds barred report. and i don't hide anything. sorry without agents it's a hard world out there. gain their respect about how thorough you are and they will know their place at an inspection and that is at a coffee shop and not the inspection. please ted stop with the contradictions--next time tell us straight up--I DON'T TAKE AGENTS REFERRALS ==or be quiet

    cvf
    Charlie. Get a grip. Don't be a putz. Don't try telling anyone on here to be quiet because you do not like their opinion. State your opinion and move on but do not be an insulting ignorant fool and think there will be no recourse.

    By the way

    "i get at least fifty referrals from the sellers agent after they read my no holds barred report."

    You must be the busiest inspector in the US of A considering every home sale has a sellers agent. Even if you do one a day that means there is one every day five days a week times 4 weeks is 20 sellers agents a month giving Charlie 50 referrals for the rest of time. Man, you must have what, 50 inspectors working for you now. Is it not time to retire Charlie.

    I have been doing this gig decades longer than you. We need not compare notes and reports.

    By the way DO YOU USE CAPITALIZATION IN YOUR REPORTS? Just asking!


  32. #32
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    ted

    stick to the facts. you are always stating you don't take agent referrals--and then you say you do. POOP OR GET OFF THE POT. --and don't do math -it is not your best subject

    cvf


  33. #33
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Ted,

    I have to agree with Charlie on this. I can easily find 10 different threads where you've went off topic (just like in post 24 of this one) to voice your opinion on realtor referrals. I've told you before to practice what you preach. Refuse the realtor referrals. When they call, tell them you will not do the inspection. You yourself claim you can easily live without them, start refusing. On the other hand I find it very difficult to believe that the 75% of the inspections you obtain from past jobs didn't include a realtor referral, even for that very first person that gave your name to 100 friends.

    So you don't agree with the quote, " An inspector cannot support a family doing buyers inspections without realtor referrals." I say prove it. Post it in bold type on the front page of your website that you refuse to book an inspection called in by an agent.


    MinnesotaHomeInspectors.com
    Minnesota Home Inspectors LLC
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  34. #34
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    For me it's a judgment call - I report that might be an indication of un-permitted work, or that might just have been the result of sloppy work, or the result of subsequent minor modifications to permitted work.

    My "possibly un-permitted work" verbiage kicks in when 1) there's a significant health and safety hazard (ex: someone has enclosed the furnace with no provision for combustion air) and/or there's a significant or major cost to correct (MK's example of an attic conversion).

    I do not perform permit research for my clients - I'm sleeping about four hours a night to keep up as it is - but I do "research how to research" permit history every time I encounter potentially un-permitted work in a new AHJ, and add that community to my report boilerplate.

    Last edited by Michael Thomas; 06-12-2012 at 11:02 AM.
    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  35. #35
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Thomas View Post
    For me it's a judgment call - there are lots a defects I report that might be an indication of un-permitted work, or that might just have been the result of sloppy work, or the result of subsequent minor modifications to permitted work.

    My "possibly un-permitted work" verbiage kicks in when 1) there's a significant health and safety hazard (ex: someone has enclosed the furnace with no provision for combustion air) and/or there's a significant or major cost to correct (MK's example of an attic conversion).

    I do not perform permit research for my clients - I'm sleeping about four hours a night to keep up as it is - but I do "research how to research" permit history every time I encounter potentially un-permitted work in a new AHJ, and add that community to my report boilerplate.
    Well said Michael. I agree with 100% of how you stated it. Its great to hear you are so busy.


  36. #36
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    If there are obvious signs of work performed without permits.. It's important, IMO to tell my clients. Furthermore, informing that there may be latent or hidden defects with construction that was performed with no one lookin'

    Permit research for day in day out Residential Home Inspection is on an as-needed basis. If a customer wants/needs/willing to pay for help and time, oh and the HI understands what they are getting into and where time gaps exists in other communities and so on... then why not! In some of the communities around here... there are gaps in time where documentation is sketchy at best. If you "blessed" something because it did or didn't have documentation.. your reputation could be subject to someone else's opinion. Of which, may or may not have an axe to grind.


  37. #37

    Default Re: Building Permits

    Gentlemen-

    Thank you once again for your replies and for the spirited discussion. I have learned so much on this fourm from back-and-forth talk from inspector to inspector and have learned much from your styles.

    On this subject, I asked the question wondering who checked permits because I didn't want a client to buy and find out that they are going to get dinged from of past work (rare I know, but it can happen) and having contractors refuse to put their stickers on future work without expensive retrofit. If a project had a permit and city inspection, the contractor is off the hook so-to-speak. After reading Ted's post on not being the bad guy and tipping off the Building Inspection Department and screwing a seller in the process -I get that. Sometimes I just wonder where the "visual inspection" in our service agreement meets what what we know is doing the right thing and going the extra step (permit inquiry, or telling them how to do it) if we see a gross defect (like some work from do-it-yourself flippers).

    I am getting a lot of good information here. I will check with cities in my area and determine the right way or most efficient way to go about this and decide what is right for my business then.

    I have no interest in turning anyone in, tipping off the City or taunting the seller. I just want to provide acurate information and let my client decide if the house is right for them.

    Thanks Again

    Brent Consie
    I-Spect Home Inspection Services
    www.i-spect.com

  38. #38
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    The problem as I see it is good work done without a permit is just as big of a problem as bad work done without a permit. If you get into the permit policing business you better have your crystal ball with you at the inspection because sometimes the work will look fine but still be unpermited.


  39. #39
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    When I bring up the whole permit thing, buyers around here just seem to be like "oh.....ok".

    I don't think they really care.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  40. #40
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Brent

    To cover yourself the wisest thing you can do us to write everything you see as I am sure you do. If you see something foolish like a pool enclosed garage, a room that you know use to be part of the attic etc then suggest they take the extra step. If you don't have a number to pass on to them and you want to be slightly helpful in that regards then look it up later and pass it on to them. As I and many have said, it may look like non permitted work but may have been permitted. The absolute vast amount of time you will just never know. This will be far and few between but there is nothing wrong with a spurr in the buyers side to check it out. I did not mean to never alarm the buyers or sellers. Just tread lightly. Fact is you won't be 100% certain just about ever.


  41. #41

    Default Re: Building Permits

    James- True that. I don't want to get into the permit police, and am not sure where to go with all this, I just want to know what you guys feel is right when you come across a bum job. I wanted to know if you start with permits, looked up permits after the fact or left them off the table. Again, good information, boys.

    I can see the "visual inspection" aspect and just write my report with consultation. On the other hand I can see visual inspection, consultation and maybe "might want to call the building dept. on this one." However, am I doing my best for the client if I make an observation and back it up with a permit or lack of one.

    James- I do get what you mean by good work without a permit and opening ourselves up to a can-o'-worms...

    ...I don't have to tell anyone here, this is a tricky business. Thanks James.

    Brent Consie
    I-Spect Home Inspection Services
    www.i-spect.com

  42. #42
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    My brother built a house in TX and didnt get one single permit! WTH is up with that??

    The MAZZA INSPECTION GROUP
    www.mazzainspections.com
    Level III Thermo-picture-taker-er...er

  43. #43
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: Building Permits

    Quote Originally Posted by Marc M View Post
    My brother built a house in TX and didnt get one single permit! WTH is up with that??
    Outside a city limit in a particular county. Lots and lots of open land around. Some towns/counties just have too small a population to support city officials


  44. #44

    Default Re: Building Permits

    One thing that no one mentioned is: even if the client or the Realtor does pull a permit report, do they know what they are looking at? Or if the permit info they get back is even related to the work that was done?

    I've done many inspections where "permits were pulled" for the work. Yah, right!
    They got a permit for a new service panel and just happened to re-wire the entire house to boot. This is being passed off as "we got permits for the work".

    The permit says "install a new patio cover" which has now become a completely hard walled, windows, wiring and plumbed room addition. On a patio slab no less!

    There have been many time I've been shown the permits and had to tell the client that the provided permits did not cover the extent of the work that was done. Someone's fudging a bit here.

    True Professionals, Inc. Property Consultant
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  45. #45
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    I do not check on permits. I could care less if a permit was issued on a home. It is not part of my inspection or is it in the scope of a normal home inspection.

    If I'm hired by a client to monitor the construction process of a new home or building it is part of my service to then check for a proper permit and to make sure the builder has the proper contractors license. I take photos of the permits and license and it becomes part of my initial report. I'm also being paid to do this type of research at this time.

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

  46. #46
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Quote Originally Posted by Marc M View Post
    My brother built a house in TX and didn't get one single permit! WTH is up with that??
    He may regret that when the time comes to sell that place. Or maybe not.

    Sometimes the realtors will do the search for permits. They sometimes wish they hadn't done that search, I'm sure. I recall a realtor complaining that although the new electrical service could not have been hooked up without a permit, said permit was no where to be found.
    It sounds like a source of endless frustrations to me.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  47. #47
    John Sullivan's Avatar
    John Sullivan Guest

    Default Re: Building Permits

    I personally don't get into checking for permits. I have a disclosure in my report that states that its up to the buyer to research and the seller to disclose if the proper permits were aquired for any and all additions and conversions. I do recommend that my clients check for permits if there has been an addition or conversion that is not listed on the assessors real property information sheet, or that appears to be less than professional quality work.


  48. #48
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    He may regret that when the time comes to sell that place. Or maybe not.

    Sometimes the realtors will do the search for permits. They sometimes wish they hadn't done that search, I'm sure. I recall a realtor complaining that although the new electrical service could not have been hooked up without a permit, said permit was no where to be found.
    It sounds like a source of endless frustrations to me.
    Yea, I just thought it was sooo weird. Can you imagine inspecting there?

    The MAZZA INSPECTION GROUP
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    Level III Thermo-picture-taker-er...er

  49. #49
    Darrel Hood's Avatar
    Darrel Hood Guest

    Default Re: Building Permits

    In most Texas counties outside of municipalities, there is no permit required to construct a building. Permits are required in most counties to drill a water well or install a septic system. In some situations it is possible to build a home with no permits and no inspections. In most situations, the electric provider and gas supplier will examine a few basic items before completing their installations. In some situations, Community Associations exercise some semblance of regulation. New construction phase inspections are the main part of my business. Most of my work is outside municipalities.

    Darrel Hood
    DILIGENT PROPERTY SERVICES


  50. #50
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Quote Originally Posted by Darrel Hood View Post
    In most Texas counties outside of municipalities, there is no permit required to construct a building. Permits are required in most counties to drill a water well or install a septic system. In some situations it is possible to build a home with no permits and no inspections. In most situations, the electric provider and gas supplier will examine a few basic items before completing their installations. In some situations, Community Associations exercise some semblance of regulation. New construction phase inspections are the main part of my business. Most of my work is outside municipalities.

    Darrel Hood
    DILIGENT PROPERTY SERVICES
    AKA job security..

    The MAZZA INSPECTION GROUP
    www.mazzainspections.com
    Level III Thermo-picture-taker-er...er

  51. #51
    Darrel Hood's Avatar
    Darrel Hood Guest

    Default Re: Building Permits

    Since new construction has decreased, it doesn't feel real secure.

    Darrel Hood
    DILIGENT PROPERTY SERVICES


  52. #52
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Quote Originally Posted by Darrel Hood View Post
    Since new construction has decreased, it doesn't feel real secure.

    Darrel Hood
    DILIGENT PROPERTY SERVICES
    Cant be any worse than California brother.

    The MAZZA INSPECTION GROUP
    www.mazzainspections.com
    Level III Thermo-picture-taker-er...er

  53. #53
    Darrel Hood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    It's probably not as bad as California. However, in 2007 I had as many as 20 homes under construction at any time. Now that number is six. It's not as bad as California, but it ain't easy.

    Darrel Hood
    DILIGENT PROPERTY SERVICES


  54. #54
    Bruce Booher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    This is exactly the issue that brought me to this site.
    The building was obviously just remodled. The seller and both agents said everything was done with permits, and that everything was inspected and signed off. No paper work for permits was left at the property.
    On the electrical, there were 6 minor, but very obvious items that I didn't think would comply with the current code, but I didn't think they possed a health or life safety issue.
    I don't think it is my job to debate a city building official, and our city is so screwed up it would take a half a day just to get to the person to request the permit history and another day to get it. I wrote that the customer should see the actual wording of the permit request to make sure everything done was covered, and to see the original signature card with a name after each permit section, not a summary.
    If the pemit was correct, and the building official was there and inspected the work, I feel that covers the issure.
    Your thoughts?


  55. #55
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    My experience with electrical inspections here in MN tells me that the electrical inspector will only inspect the work the permit was issued for. If one circuit was added they'll only comment on that one circuit.

    Meaning, everything else could be done incorrectly, but as long as that one circuit is ok they'll pass it.

    Advise them to check for permits, and write up everything that's done incorrectly.

    MinnesotaHomeInspectors.com
    Minnesota Home Inspectors LLC
    ASHI #242887 mnradontesting.com

  56. #56
    Bruce Booher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Thanks for the advice. This was a tricky one. All the electrical was new, and was clean work. But as an example, the electrican used a PVC male adapter as the nipple out of the distribution panel where the romex exited. Safe, but not "listed and labled for the use" and more than one piece of romex under a staple.
    So, that seems about all an inspector can do; write it up, and recomend a permit search.


  57. #57
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    Default Re: Building Permits

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Booher View Post
    But as an example, the electrican used a PVC male adapter as the nipple out of the distribution panel where the romex exited. Safe, but not "listed and labled for the use" and more than one piece of romex under a staple.
    Why do you say that is "safe"?

    That PVC male adapter is the wrong fitting used for the wrong purpose and could cause damage to the NM cable as well as the fact that it is not securing the NM cable to the enclosure which could cause damage and even start a fire.

    The home inspector would write it up as being unsafe, the code inspector would write it up as in violation of several things, starting off with 110.3(B) Listing and Labeling and go from there.

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

  58. #58
    Darrel Hood's Avatar
    Darrel Hood Guest

    Default Re: Building Permits

    The only differences between PVC water pipe and fittings are color and labeling.


  59. #59
    Darrel Hood's Avatar
    Darrel Hood Guest

    Default Re: Building Permits

    I'm sorry, I didn't complete the prior post. It should have said:

    The only differences between PVC water pipe and fittings and electrical conduit are color and labeling.


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