SB Common misconceptions of new homeowners.

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May 23, 2024
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In my line of work as a Code Enforcement Inspector for the City of LA, I have come across many different excuses and lies as to why someone didn't get there permits but, the one that I get a lot that is actually true is from new homeowners that are unaware of the proper processes in doing construction. Many of them are told by their realtor that they do not need permits for doing anything inside of their house, like remodels. I make sure to help these homeowners out when I get the complaint and walk them through the process so they are better educated for the future. I believe some of these realtors are misguided themselves and sharing the false information that they believe to be true. There needs to be some sort of educating of realtors to make them aware of what each municipality requires as far as permitting. Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety is catching on to this and we now have a team dedicated to online education for the public that will be going online soon with their own YouTube channel. In the meantime any code questions can be answered by our Virtual Counter or by calling 311 if you reside inside LA City or (213)473-3231 outside of LA City.
 
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Many of them are told by their realtor that they do not need permits for doing anything inside of their house, like remodels.

I wonder how much of this is lack of education and - more cynically - how much is self-serving rationalization? Do you think relators downplay (or lie) about the lack of need for permits simply to make their clients more comfortable closing on fixer upper-type houses? As the relator, it would often pay to be dumb about permitting matters, right?

And the situation is pretty much the same with contractors, isn't it? A lot of homeowners hire electricians, plumbers, renovation GCs, etc., to do regulated work on their house but never hear anything from these tradespeople about the need for a permit. As a San Diego homeowner myself, I've seen this several times firsthand. I think the root of the issue is that the people homeowners hire have zero legal liable for permitting requirements/violations - fundamentally it's only the homeowner who's on the hook. As long as that's the case, and it pays for relators and tradespeople to be dumb about permitting, I don't see things changing much.

But kudos on LADBS' upcoming online education efforts. That will definitely help, I think, especially if you're able to target the homeowners themselves. Would you be willing to share the website/YouTube info for that initiative here on Permitting Talk as soon as it goes live?
 
I wonder how much of this is lack of education and - more cynically - how much is self-serving rationalization? Do you think relators downplay (or lie) about the lack of need for permits simply to make their clients more comfortable closing on fixer upper-type houses? As the relator, it would often pay to be dumb about permitting matters, right?

And the situation is pretty much the same with contractors, isn't it? A lot of homeowners hire electricians, plumbers, renovation GCs, etc., to do regulated work on their house but never hear anything from these tradespeople about the need for a permit. As a San Diego homeowner myself, I've seen this several times firsthand. I think the root of the issue is that the people homeowners hire have zero legal liable for permitting requirements/violations - fundamentally it's only the homeowner who's on the hook. As long as that's the case, and it pays for relators and tradespeople to be dumb about permitting, I don't see things changing much.

But kudos on LADBS' upcoming online education efforts. That will definitely help, I think, especially if you're able to target the homeowners themselves. Would you be willing to share the website/YouTube info for that initiative here on Permitting Talk as soon as it goes live?
I agree with that as well, a lot of devious communication with homeowners to either save a buck or make their job easier to get away with sub-par work. And also you are correct, there is nothing in place to go after the contractor or tradesman, it all falls on the homeowner. When I get those cases in Code Enforcement I always do my best to work with the homeowner to educate them and get them through the process with minimal violation fees. I will definitely share the link once it goes live.
 
We get a lot of people that think they can do what they want inside the house, or building, and no one will notice. We have been getting a lot of calls from realtors lately that check to see what has been permitted in the house. I am sure there are just as many who tell potential buyers they don't need permits.
 
I work for a very rural county that spans 2,000 square miles. There are two of us inspectors and I guarantee so much goes on that should be permitted but isn't. Most people do what needs to be done on the bigger builds, but I'm sure there is so much, even from the people who know better, that gets missed. And, I will be honest, in the 3 years I have been an inspector, I have never had someone pull a permit to replace a hot water heater.
 
Which is why I don't tend to listen to what a realtor says when it comes to construction work. They are only there to sell people on the house and get it sold, nothing more. All homeowners should always reach out to the local building department and permitting office for instructions. Obtain contractors to handle any extensive work, and especially obtain the required permits if needed.

I respect realtors as they do know a lot, but I can't imagine they are always versed on permit requirements and the rules.
 
I imagine a lot of places have unpermitted work like this. Especially with bad advice from realtors or others. I think realtors should know certain things, but I don't know if they are the right person to tell you if permits are needed or not. I suppose it can't hurt to have them learn this info, but the reason they are there is to sell the house and their concerns are only with that. They don't need to care what you do after you buy the house.
 
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