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Question DetailsAsked on 4/21/2016

what fines can be charged for increasing the size of your garage without a permit

we inherited a home with a separate garage. The previous owner added 8ft to the back of the garage without a permit and we received a violation for this part of the garage that was added on and they are going to come out and inspect it and I am sure they are going to make us tear it down. do you know what kind of fines they can charge us for and how much they might be

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1 Answer


Here is a previous similar question with answer which might help -

Generally - though all jurisdictions have their own rules, if you talk to them (or commonly better yet hire an architect to help with the process and to talk to the permittiung supervisor BEFORE they take action or issue an abatement notice) about being an innocent party, commonly they will issue an "abate or remedy order" which says you have a certain amount of time (commonly a month but you can request a longer time for a major effort) to either remove the offending unpermitted work (and don't forget to get proper building or demolition permits for THAT or they nail you again for unpermitted work on the unpermitted work) OR to get plans and a building permit for completion/approval of the work.

This presupposes that the addition did not violate zoning laws - like distance from property line or which yard it intrudes into (side or back), total square footage, and such.

Fines and penalties - commonly you have to get the permit that was originally needed, commonly a penalty or fine of 1-3 times that amount (but that is commonly waived if you convince them you were not involved in the violation in any way other than buying it after it was done), and sometimes a fine of $500-1000 in some areas (for normal residential work - mansions and commercial can get into tens and hundreds of thousands of $).

Recouping it - if you can prove the prior owner did this without a permit and did not disclose that on his real estate disclosure at sale time, you may have cause for legal action against him or his insurance company.

If it infringes property lines or mandatory setbacks or easements, many times (under duress) the Title Insurance company will cover the cost of making it legal or removing it.

My recommendation - especially since they intend to come inspect it - get an Architecture firm (probably not a one-man architect - a full services Architect/Engineer firm) on board ASAP who handles residential permitting and planning and zoning issues and appeals, and be proactive. Have the architect there when the inspector comes (schedule an appointment) and talk about permits to allow it to stay - pending Planning and Zoning approval. If you talk to them in advance, commonly you can get the permit for the construction, have a Handyman (and electrician and HVAC contractor and/or plumber as he may demand there to open up the walls and ceilings and discuss the work in place with him) as required by the inspector for inspection of the work to determine what needs to be done to bring it up to approval. Commonly, if the work was professionally done, a few redo's on obscure code violations and then repair of the drywall and paint damage from opening up a few spots for inspection is the limit. Of course, on DIY jobs it can sometimes get pretty nasty.

One thing to discuss up front with the Architect is, if this was a DIY job by the previous owner, did it even need a building permit, and if so other than the Planning and Zoning approval does it need to be inspected - because in many areas people can work on their house and build themselves not subject to building code inspection. However, that is a hard-nose approach and you might need an attorney to fight that cause - probably for the scope you are talking about easier to play the game their way and bring everything up to code.

Even if it infringes on the setbacks you can generally file for an exemption for that, with public notice and such - normally play the game their way and you can get away with almost anything. Fight them or be non-responsive and you will suffer the curse of the bureaucracy.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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