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Question DetailsAsked on 2/4/2018

2/3 way done with unpermitted bathroom addition. Could create issues selling, what should I do?

Hi, So I am currently working on my 2nd flip. The first was just updates and paint. The current is 4bed 1bath, which I have decided would be better as a 3bed 2bath. I have had the 2nd floor two bedrooms and hallway converted into a master suite with a walk-in closet and bathroom. The issue is that I did not have any permits pulled for the addition of the bathroom. Everything is roughed in with subfloors down and walls up. I have be having serious doubts now because I do not want to have issues selling the house such as it not matching county records, buyers having issues obtaining financing or potential lawsuit. I just want everything to go smoothly but now am stuck on what to do. Should I just demo all the work and put back as a 4bed 1bath? I am just looking for a straight up answer on what I need to do. Any guidance is greatly appreciated. Thanks

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I am going to assume from your phrasing that you had contractors doing at least some of the work - otherwise, if ALL done by yourself AND if you are legally living in the house during the rennovation, in many areas you can do pretty much whatever you want without a building permit as long as you do not modify the footprint or height or number of living units or such so Planning and Zoning gets involved. You would have to check local building department and Planning and Zoning Department websites about that if you have been doing the work yourself AND been living there - a flipper living somewhere else does NOT have this exemption.

Might - or more likely will - cause issues in selling, especially since the Realtor will (hopefully) recognize this is a 3 bedroom 2 bath, not a 4 bedroom one bath as on the title and previous MLS listing, so that conflict between the title/deed and the previous MLS listing will be obvious and have to be resolved. You do NOT want to list it improperly - buyer can come back and try to void the sale, plus since you would obviously "know" about the error would be civil and possibly criminal fraud as well.

Also, reducing the number of bedrooms may actually lower the property value for property tax purposes since number of bedrooms is usually the primary valuation factor. Though what one less bedroom but one more bath will do to resale value depends - but generally a 3/2 will be worth more than a comparable design/footage 4/1. People just are not into one bathroom houses unless they are quite small, dsay a "bungalow" for just a couple, say.

Since to get a building permit you will most likely need to submit plans - structural, electrical, plumbing, etc and a structural signoff on any structural modifications, you probably need to talk to a local Architect (your Search the List category) firm which has done after-the-fact permits before. Prior knowledge of the process, plus knowing how to approach the building department on this, may save you a LOT of grief - or even a demand you change it back AND pay a fine. I know I did a few of these back in the day, and knowing the people in the department (I had served a couple of years as city Engineer) and the internal "rules" on things like these made an incredible difference in processing - days or a week or two at most versus months. With a good architect's help you should be able to keep the changes you have made (assuming there is no zoning requirements for 4 bedrooms in your area), and most areas count required septic capacity by bedrooms rather than bathrooms, so likely no grief there like theremihgt be with adding bedroom(s), if on septic. And reduction in bedrooms not increase, so no change in on-site parking space required - that is commonly controlled by number of bedrooms.

I certainly would not do any internal closing-up until permit is in hand and inspections are up-to-date - because any structural, plumbing, electrical, etc inspections should be done before they are closed in. You may find they will require that some drywall be opened up so they can see those if you have any walls or ceilings closed in. Generally, unless they have you "on their list" for not having gotten a permit up-front, they will look at the quality of workmanship and materials adequacy (type and size) and such where they can see it, and if not any significant problems there may just require you knock a few holes in the drywall "on principle" to look a couple of other places to get a feel that the hidden places are done no different than the rest. But I have seen inspectors require entire walls be opened up - probably most common place for that is right behind electrical panel to check bunching/routing of all the wires there, and ceilings under shower/tub to check drain piping.

Whether you will need a regulatory lawyer to help depends on how much hassle the building or zoning department wants to give you, but usually not needed except in a few big cities which just make a habit of being pains in the ... about permits - the usual well-known culprits like NYC, BOS, SFO, etc.

Fines for this depend on area, but commonly they double the building permit fee you have to pay as a penalty. Not a major cost if only the permit fee goes up, if your area uses permits as a funds source so they base them on building value as a "building tax" without calling it that, then could be several thousands more (in addition to the permit fee you would have had to pay anyway).

Here are links to some related questions with answers which should help: - but work with a local architect or lawyer for the definitive approach for your area. Fortunately, you will probably avoid any Planning and Zoning problems because you are not increasing living units or footprint or height, though may have to get a permit from them anyway.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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