View Full Version : Should I get a permit for a basement bathroom?

10-12-2009, 12:55 PM
We are planning on haveing a full bath (stall shower, toilet and sink) installed in our basement.
The basement is already finished, we would just be adding the bathroom.
NOTE: This is not a DIY project. Work will be done by licensed plumbers, electricians, etc.

A friend of mine owns a landscaping design business and in the off-season does contracting on the side. He onws rental properties, flip houses. He uses licensed plumbers and elecltricians for all his work. I've seen his work; it's top shelf stuff.

Now, to the dilemma......

My friend says I should do the bathroom without getting a permit.
He says the permit process is a huge PITA for my town (he would know because he lives in my town too). Plus, he said my taxes would go up.

I asked him, "what if I go to sell, what to I do?"

He said claim ignorance. Tell the inspector/realtor, etc. that the contractor said he got all the permits. He said most folks won't even ask about permits if the work looks done good and right. It is when the work looks like a hack job is when people start to ask questions.
He said we would take pictures of all the work as we went along to show any inspector if the issue came up.
He said if I had to pay a fine at the time of sale, it would be less than the increase in taxes I would've paid.

So, what does everyone think?

If I was doing this myself, I would definitely get a permit. But since all the work will be done by licensed guys (and presumably up to code) why not take the bit of risk and skip the permits?

thanks for the input.

Peter Griffin
10-12-2009, 12:57 PM
I think your friend has given you some very bad advice.
Get a permit, avoid the fine.

10-12-2009, 02:45 PM
Permits are a pain but when you go to sell your house you have to disclose by law (at least in my state) any work (remodeling, electrical, plumbing, etc) that was done without a permit. If you list your bath project the new/prospective buyers will be suspicious of the work. If you don't list it, and later something goes wrong, and they find out it is work you did, your sold "as-is" purchase is void and you could be held liable for repairs and damages.
Besides most inspectors are freindly and nicer to homeowners (some might say) than to contractors - who they assume should know the codes.

10-12-2009, 02:50 PM
When we added on the contractors pulled our permit, and I bet they wouldn't do the work otherwise.
Plus, you got to ask yourself what is peace of mind worth, and who needs to sit and think about it later on. I would go the distance and get the permit just for that alone. :)

Peter Griffin
10-12-2009, 04:02 PM
That's a good point. The permit protects everybody involved from the homeowner to the contractor and the city also. It is the one document that certifies the integrity of the job.

10-12-2009, 08:21 PM
Pay for it now or pay for it later.. permits will protect you.

10-12-2009, 08:55 PM
Go ahead and get permits. And even though he's a friend of yours, I would check his subs licenses with the state contractors board and the BBB. Also, have them give you certificates of liability insurance and worker's comp.


10-12-2009, 09:44 PM
I haven't posted in awhile but had to jump in on this one...

My perspective:

If you can absolutely guarantee that the work will be done to code standards, then you could make the argument that you don't need a permit.

I hear what you're saying about raising your taxes!! Where i live they simply use the permit process (IMO) as an excuse to raise your property taxes; and there already frikking outrageously high!!!!

I have sold houses in the past that i (may) have done work on w/o a permit. I am a DIYer but my work is typically much better quality than any contractor i could hire. I research the applicable codes thoroughly. When i sold it, the real estate agent (more thieves...) for the buyer asked if all renovation work done was permitted? I said no; end of story, no more questions. Their inspector didn't find any issues.

So there you go, pay your $$ and take your choice...

Runs with bison
10-12-2009, 10:15 PM
Get it permitted. It's the right thing to do first of all. Secondly, it protects you from various mistakes and shortcuts. If anyone that is doing the work is fly-by-night this gives you a fighting chance. I would seriously question the ethics of this contractor friend of yours. Remember, they got Capone for tax evasion (granted that is Federal)...who is to say that they wouldn't go back later and make you pay back property taxes with penalties? It's just not worth it to me.

Finally, I doubt the tax impact would be very large since the basement is already finished and this isn't expanding the living area. You might even ask the assessors ahead of time what sort of standard adjustment would apply. With this housing market it shouldn't be too hard to challenge an assessment.

The previous owner in my home didn't pull permits for several things he had done, but was legally required to have permits for. I found this out when I was trying to figure out who built various things when I had questions.

10-12-2009, 10:25 PM
That's a good point. The permit protects everybody involved from the homeowner to the contractor and the city also. It is the one document that certifies the integrity of the job.

Unless you're talking about tract homes, in which case the inspector barely slows down enough to sign the permit as he drives by. I never cease to be amazed at the shoddy, non-code work I come across every time I open a wall in a tract home -- and all of it "approved" by an inspector.

10-13-2009, 07:06 AM
The PRIMARY reason for permits is to adjust the tax assessment. Doing it properly is a secondary function, although also an important one. But the permit fee is a one time deal, the tax assessment "keeps on giving", forever.

10-13-2009, 08:51 AM
A permit is cheap insurance against any stop work orders (and fines) while the job is in progress and against any problems that might come up when you try to sell your home. I don't know where you live, but you might be surprised how easy the process is. I've pulled three permits on different projects as a homeowner/non-professional and passed the inspections without any problems. I'm not sure what the permitting schedule and fees are like in your area, though

10-13-2009, 12:52 PM
One thing that has surprised me by it not being mentioned. If an inspector should learn of a non permitted build he can order it torn out and redone to specs. Far more of a cost than the cost of a permit.

Peter Griffin
10-13-2009, 03:56 PM
It's the thinking that bothers me. It's like we make laws and rules but they shouldn't apply to everyone. I suppose we get that from watching our elected officials. I like to think of it this way. I've held a drivers license for almost 40 years. Never had a single accident nor a moving violation in over 25 years. I'm a pretty damn good driver so I guess that means that the rules of the road should not apply to me right? There are a whole lot of folks that think the rules don't apply to them or that they are somehow special and above everyone else. They are the ones that don't bother with licenses and permits and think that because they have the knowledge that somehow exempts them from following the rules. Sorry for the rant and I'll bet the OP will probably get a permit anyway because he was wary enough to ask the question in the first place. Most don't even bother, they just blindly blunder ahead and then complain when they get busted.

10-13-2009, 05:31 PM
...they just blindly blunder ahead and then complain when they get busted.

Or complain when they have problems that force them to redo, largely at their own expense.

Rich B
10-13-2009, 06:14 PM
One of my co-workers told me about his recent "permit" experience. He had some work done on his home. Roof, siding, windows.......decided he better get the proper permits. The work was completed and he hadn't seen or heard from any building inspector during or after the work was completed. I think he said something like $150 in fees......He called the building dept to see if he needed to schedule an inspection and the nice lady said....Oh, the building inspector usually just does a "drive by".........your good! I'm sure they didn't forget to UPGRADE his tax bill......I built a garage many years ago and did it myself with a permit. I did have some issues. The building inspector reviewed the plans and it clearly listed the materials being used. It was a Wickes packaged garage, When he came for an inspection he did not like the sheathing but it was clearly listed on the plans and I told him he approved them. I made some additions to make him happy. He never showed up for a final inspection as I recall and I got tired of dancing around with him......My taxes were adjusted anyway and I never heard another word from him. I had an underground oil tank removed a few years ago.....Permited inspected and signed off......I would not have done it without the permit and inspection.

11-04-2009, 08:14 AM
well, we've decided to go with our gut (and the advice here on this board) and get the permits.

My friend (the GC) has no problems with doing that. And he understands my reasons for doing so.
Being a small business owner, he's just on a bit of an anti-government rant lately, and sees the permit process as a government revenue grab.....he's a good guy, definitely not an idiot.
He and all of the subs (plumber, electrician) are licensed and have no problem going the permit route.

Funny note though........
My wife and I were watching HTV the other night. (Sundays at 9:00 PM) Watching the show "Holmes on Homes." (http://www.terrylove.com/forums/showthread.php?35705-Holmes-on-Homes-HGTV-Sundays-9-00-PM&highlight=holmes+on+homes)
Holmes is a contractor that goes around helping people out that get screwed over by shady contractors.
He was helping a couple who basically had their whole house torn apart to be remodeled. Well, the contractor did some really really crappy work......all sorts of construction, plumbing and electrical code violations......and ALL of it (according to the show) had been approved by inspectors.
"Holmes on Homes" ended up bascially ripping everything out and started from scratch....

With this permit debate issue in mind, my wife and I had a bit of a laugh when we saw that.



Peter Griffin
11-04-2009, 02:54 PM
congratulations on your informed decision. You will never regret doing things right.

11-04-2009, 03:22 PM
You made the right choice...

11-05-2009, 09:58 AM
Holmes on Homes has a vested interest in making EVERYONE else's work look bad. I have NEVER seen or heard him say, "Well, this was a very good piece of work". It's always, "This was done by an idiot, and you are lucky I am here to fix it". Even contractors can "cut corners" if they know it will not be inspected.