When are Building Permits Required?
According to the Los Angeles Municipal Code a building permit is required:
For any construction work that costs $500 or more. Permits are required to build, remodel, add on, repair, demolish or change the occupancy of any building or structure. Updating or upgrading a property also requires a permit. Depending on the size of the job, several different permits might be required. (Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 91.106)
Here are some examples of work that requires a permit: Demolition, Grading, Roofing, kitchen remodel, bathroom remodel, New pool, installing or replacing HVAC, Solar Panels, upgrading electrical, new plumbing, exterior stucco, new windows, chimney repairs, Fences above a certain height, decks, seismic retrofitting, foundation repairs.
If you follow the letter of the municipal code to the letter, you are pretty much supposed to permit everything! Your author’s personal opinion is the $500 threshold is a bit low and has not been adjusted for inflation over the years. I think $1,500 to $2,000 would be more realistic in 2020, but it could be as high as $5,000. It should be a meaningful amount of money that if you lost it you would actually go about the effort to try to recover it. There is definitely a place for handyman whose work is mostly basic low-level construction. If everyone permitted every Water Heater installation (typically $1,500 to $2,000) the city would be overrun!