We’re always telling homeowners to ensure that do-it-yourself plans have all the required legal permits and approvals. But many times, they don’t follow that advice, and sometimes unpermitted work manages to get past the watchful eyes of city officials, neighbors and real estate agents — and sometimes it doesn’t. You might even be lying awake nights wondering if you should tear down all that unpermitted work right now.
The good news is that if you take a proactive stand, you can fix the situation, and many cities and counties in Arizona are even willing to help you out. That includes Casa Grande, says Gilbert Peru of the city’s building department. If you approach the building or planning department first, your costs will be greatly minimized, although you will have to bring the structure in question up to code. You will have to pay for the necessary permit and inspections, of course.
“Our purpose is to help people do what they want with their property,” says Joshua States, a supervisor with the Phoenix Planning Department.
According to city planners, most serious problems with lack of permits involve the following:
— Turning a carport into a garage.
— Turning a garage into livable space like a bedroom, family room or office.
— Putting a roof over a patio.
— Turning patios into livable space like a bedroom or family room.
— Running gas lines to outdoor barbecues, fireplaces or fire pits.
Maybe you know a lot about carpentry, but sometimes glitches come up later. You didn’t have enough posts to support the new “garage,” and now the roof is sagging. The patio roof isn’t supported by the house, and it’s hanging from the fascia boards that are lightly tacked to the exterior.
Usually, the biggest snag for unpermitted work comes along when you, the homeowner, try to sell. First, the Realtor questions how the patio became a bedroom. Then the bank appraiser tells you that the legal square footage of your house is smaller than the livable space you really have because of the illegal addition. The home inspector might say that you need to revamp the electrical wiring in the bathroom you built in the garage. You might have problems with the title company, too. No surprise: Your potential buyer drops out of escrow.
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