Non permitted work is considered illegal so be aware of the risks.
There are two ways an inspector can discover a building code violation:
1. A neighbor or tenant calls the Building Department and complains
2. An inspector finds a code violations during another inspection out in the field
The Risk for code enforcement depends on how likely you are to be cited and the cost to correct the problem if you are cited.
How likely are you to be cited?
It is very hard for building inspectors to spot non permitted work inside the home that is not visible from the street or any other public right of way. That is why so many home owners are able to get away with no permits- because it is hard to catch.
Here are some stories about the city citing non permitted construction:
Story 1: I heard of an owner in Silver Lake getting sighted with an order to comply for a non permitted deck, because the decks were visible from a neighbors backyard. Be careful in hilly area’s to check permits on buildings in the back yard like decks, pools, or patios.
Story 2: A home owner decided to get a permit for a new addition in their home, and when the building inspector came out for an inspection- they discovered that the heating and cooling system didn’t have a far enough set back in the backyard, went back to the office, and search on the property activity report, and discovered there wasn’t any permits pulled for installing the HVAC. He then writes up an order to comply for the homeowner to move the condenser farther away from the house.
Story 3: The building inspector is driving on his way to a building inspection and sees that a property along with way is having a new roof done, but there is no permit posted in the front window. He writes down the address and when he gets back to the office, checks the property activity report, and discovers no roofing permit was pulled and writes an order to comply.
Story 4: Homebuyer purchases a property with a converted garage to guest house, they bought the property partly because they liked having the income from renting the guest house out. A nosy neighbor who doesn’t like having “renters” nearby makes an anonymous call to the building department and reports the violation. The inspector finds out about the unpermitted garage conversion, and the zoning of the property does not allow multiunit dwellings. The building department orders the homeowner to revert the guest house back to its permitted use.
Story 5: You want extra income so you decide to turn your 4 bedroom house into a 10 unit boarding house without any permits. It is only a matter of time before the city comes knocking on your door…