Violations and Non-Compliance

Eric

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Staff member
Apr 16, 2023
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Anyone have stories about violations or non-compliance issues they helped resolve? Share with the community here.
 
Location
United States
Anyone have stories about violations or non-compliance issues they helped resolve? Share with the community here.
We deal with this issue a lot. For some reason people where I am don't think they need to get permits. But when they get caught and then have to come in, I try to be friendly and helpful to get them into compliance.
 
We deal with this issue a lot. For some reason people where I am don't think they need to get permits. But when they get caught and then have to come in, I try to be friendly and helpful to get them into compliance.

Thanks for kicking things off, Elissa B :). Yeah, no doubt violations (especially all the undiscovered stuff) are common across building department jurisdictions. I think part of the problem is contractors cutting corners by not bothering with permitting and/or not even educating homeowners about the need for permits. It's great you start with a friendly approach when resolving violations. People respond better when they see that the authorities are solution-oriented and want to work with them, rather than there being any personal judgement involved.

Any advice you can share for people dealing with violations in your neck of the woods of WA State?
 
Hi there. Not a lot to report on the personal level here based on my position. However, the ones that always seem to amaze me are the ones that we get anonymous reports for...ironically from those that do a lot of work within the city and know the rules but STILL think they can bypass the system and perform work without permits. So much fun!
 
Hi there. Not a lot to report on the personal level here based on my position. However, the ones that always seem to amaze me are the ones that we get anonymous reports for...ironically from those that do a lot of work within the city and know the rules but STILL think they can bypass the system and perform work without permits. So much fun!

Thanks for your thoughts, Janet. I think a lot of contractors know the rules but sometimes find themselves in situations where they're juggling multiple jobs or are operating within strict budget/time constraints. There are situations where the contractor has to balance limited availabilities among multiple trades and where completing the project is a significant logistical challenge even without permitting timelines factored in. Especially where the building department has a poor reputation for responsiveness and long delays are common, I guess I can understand otherwise well meaning contractors being compelled to skip permitting (if they think they can get away with it) in order to ensure that deadlines are met.

There's one thing I am wondering though. If you're dealing with an experienced contractor who flagrantly disregarded permitting/code requirements (i.e., they knew what they were doing was wrong), are your penalties more severe than they would be for a non-compliant homeowner who genuinely didn't know the rules?
 
To your question, Eric: we would fine the contractor (I believe it's $500 for work done w/o a permit; they get one "freebie" so to speak, and would be fined for the second offense.
For a homeowner who didn't know the rules, we'd show a little grace at first and point them in the direction they need to go. If they chose to disregard the rules once we notified them of them, that's a different story of course. Building trust and communication for both sides is crucial.
 
I remember years ago, a family member of mine purchased a house that was never to compliance. Supposedly the wiring was done in haste and they cut corners. I heard it was regarded a severe fire hazard and they had to pretty much re-wire the whole property. Aside from that, I think they were unpermitted for most of the work done, so they had to reapply for every permit they failed to get and make the work correct.

I don't know if the original homeowner got into any trouble, but I assume my family sued the guy at one point. I don't know what ever came of it though. It was when I was a child, so my recollection of it, isn't perfect.
 
To your question, Eric: we would fine the contractor (I believe it's $500 for work done w/o a permit; they get one "freebie" so to speak, and would be fined for the second offense.
For a homeowner who didn't know the rules, we'd show a little grace at first and point them in the direction they need to go. If they chose to disregard the rules once we notified them of them, that's a different story of course. Building trust and communication for both sides is crucial.

Thanks for sharing, Emily! That makes a lot of sense. It's great you prioritize working with people and giving them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to first violations, especially homeowners who just didn't know the rules.

The only thing I'm wondering about is the $500 penalty you mentioned. Is that amount really high enough to serve as a detterant? I guess I'm used to Clean Water Act Section 404 civil penalty numbers (up to $64,619 per day per violation + annual inflation adjustments) so $500 seems on the low side to me (lol). I know our two fields are apples and oranges but there are cases - at least in environmental permitting - where violators simply factor in the penalty as a cost of doing business. I feel like if I were a contractor working on a $50,000 remodel, and I was anticipating delay/uncertainty in the permit process, I might be willing to pay a $500 penalty (1% of the total budget) to skip permitting and avoid some headaches. Know what I mean?

Just thinking out loud from a completely different permitting discipline :). I really appreciate your perspective on this!
 
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