I received a call the other day from a woman that was very excited and needed advice. After almost completing her attic with a contractor, the contractor never returned, ignored her calls repeatedly and finally when she caught him on the phone he responded that he had no more time to complete the attic and if she will give him a hard time he will complain to the town that she is finishing her attic without a permit from the town. She was very concerned about the situation as she had no idea whether completing the attic required a permit or not as now the attic is almost completed including electrical work, dry wall, floors and ceilings. She wanted to know if it was necessary or possible now to apply for the permit now, what would be the circumstances if she wants to sell the house and the town will find out that she finished the attic without a permit.
In most towns you need to get a permit for everything that you build new and sometimes things that you repair, except for cosmetic work like paint. In some specific towns they even want to squeeze the permit and permit fees from you even for just putting down floor tiles or replace a window but the state has specific regulations regarding which work requires a permit with respect to, building, electrical, fire, plumbing, HVAC, and you should follow those guidelines.
I suggested to this woman to go to the town and tell them about the work that had been done, which was mostly a few electrical outlets, high hats, covering the walls with dry wall, flooring and painting, and ask them what they would suggest you do. In our experience in most towns for this type of work they will not tear down the work and most of them will respect the person that comes and tries to correct and file for a permit legally and will help her to do so (although some of them unfortunately sometimes give a hard time for no reason). In most towns she can also apply for the permit as a home owner and she might need to apply for the electrical work with an electrician to verify that the electrical job has been done up to code. In most cases its possible and most inspectors are reasonable about, removing an outlet and recess light to see the type of wire, the size and the connection without removing the dry wall. This is certainly a situation that can be worked out legally and up to code.
Permits for commercial buildings are a little different and the regulations are a little bit more strictly held than for homes. By applying for a permit you can verify that the commercial contractor is doing the work up to code and that it is done right without any shortcuts.
If you need any advice about completing a home improvement construction or obtaining a building permit for your refinished basement or refinished attic, please feel free to contact us at any time at (201) 458-0455.