Unpermitted work is any job done that does not carry the necessary permits that make it legal. The most common examples of unpermitted work are home additions and basements. Improvements made to the home without permits can be time-consuming and prove to be expensive whether you are the buyer or the seller.

How to Handle Unpermitted Work?

So what should you do when you find out that any work has been done without a permit? The work may include plumbing or electrical work as well as structural changes. Regardless if it was done without a permit when it should have had one, you should be concerned. Make sure you first are aware of the permitting laws in your local area as they do vary from one place to another. Having permits when they are required is important so you can avoid any future problems down the road. It is important that every homeowner, whether buying or selling, is aware of permits laws and regulations before making any changes to their home. It is equally important to hire professional and licensed workers to perform the job required. Most unpermitted work done is a solution for saving money, but risks causing further problems and more expenses. In the end, unpermitted work could be more expensive than getting the permits in the first place.

For those that plan on being in their home forever, unpermitted work is very tempting. But, the house will be sold eventually and whoever gets it will end up facing the repercussions of that decision and possible damages or expenses they did not expect. There are also some owners that deliberately don’t pull permits as a way of keeping the value of their real estate low. Acting with these short-term benefits in mind only leads to long-term serious consequences. If you find yourself buying a home that had unpermitted work done, there are a few things to keep in mind. Any home that has unpermitted work is essentially coming with baggage that you need to be prepared to deal with. These homes are often cheaper which is appealing but you need to know what you are getting yourself into.  All unpermitted work must be disclosed to a buyer before agreements are signed. You may still be held responsible for unpermitted work should city inspectors decide to look around. In some cases, the work that was done without a permit can be taken down. In other cases, you may be required to get the permit that should have been obtained in the first place so the expense ends up on you. When it comes to buying a home that has had unpermitted work, you have a few options.

  1. If the deal is reasonable and a discount on the overall price seems fair to you, take the deal. You can always plan to get the permit yourself later and take the risk for the time being to save on buying the home.
  2. You can ask the seller to fix the problem, although they are likely not interested in doing that.
  3. You can find another home to buy if the issues and risks associated with the unpermitted work are greater than the savings for the house.

As a seller, you should be aware of any unpermitted work that has been done and be prepared to offer lower pricing and the house “as is”. If you discover that unpermitted work was done prior to your ownership, you have a few options available to you too.

  1. Double check the blueprints of the home to identify for sure if unpermitted work was done. You can easily get blueprints from the previous owner as well as the city.
  2. Once you verify that the work was done you can seek to get the appropriate permit or decide to sell “as is”. You need to inform any buyer, however that the work was done.
  3. It is not advised to sell the home without disclosing the unpermitted work as you will be at risk of a lawsuit and serious financial loss should it become discovered after the fact.


Seller may lose money when selling the house “as is” so it may be more worth your while to get the permit for the work that was done. Check the local permit regulations in your area to evaluate what is required and weight up the costs and risks. You will likely make more from the sale of your home after getting the permit which will make up for having to get it in the first place. Unpermitted work can cause problems to buyers and sellers alike, so it is best as a homeowner to always get permits before making changes to your home. If you do find yourself dealing with unpermitted work, be sure to research permit laws in your area and learn what options you have. It is always better to deal with things the right way first and avoid long-term negative consequences later on.