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Lots of do-it-yourselfers skip the building permit when they put an addition onto a house, enclose a carport, rearrange the tub, toilet and bathroom sink during a remodel, or do other home-improvement work. If the work you do around your house involves electricity, plumbing, knocking down walls or moving fixtures like sinks and toilets, you need a permit. If you’re putting in something that’s portable (window-mounted air conditioner, swamp cooler, plug-in appliance) or cosmetic (paint, countertops, flooring), you don’t need one. When in doubt, check with the city.

Still, if it seems like a hassle to run your plans over to City Hall and apply for a permit, consider the trouble you could find yourself in if you don’t.   

Here are five reasons why you should comply with the law and spring for a permit when your home-improvement job involves building an addition, an enclosure or an outbuilding, putting up a tall fence, messing with electricity or plumbing, or moving or removing a wall in your home.

  1. When you apply for a city permit, it triggers an inspection by a building official who will make sure the work complies with safety and other standards adopted by the city. Those standards usually are based on the minimum requirements, so the inspector isn’t going to insist on more than that. He’s there to help you keep your home and your family safe. 
  2. Most of us have nosy neighbors who can’t wait to let the city know that we’re remodeling without the proper papers. If the city gets wind of your unpermitted project after you’re already halfway, or all the way, finished, an inspector is going to visit you and ask to see the work. If you’ve drywalled over it, you might have to tear that drywall out to show him what work was done.
  3. If you have a problem with a contractor and you reach out to the city for help, the first thing officials will look for is your permit. In fact, it’s your responsibility, not your contractor’s, to make sure all of the proper permits have been issued for work at your house.
  4. When it’s time to sell your house, an unpermitted room addition won’t show up as square footage in official county records, which means your house might not be valued as high as you believe it should be. Plus, many buyers, and even realtors, are reluctant to deal with a house that’s had work done without a permit. There’s no guarantee that the work was done safely or up to current building and electrical codes.
  5. It doesn’t happen very often, but failing to get a permit for home improvements can result in a stop-work order and fine of up to $2,500, depending on where in Arizona you live.

So no matter how simple your home-improvement or repair job may be, check with the city to learn if you need a permit.


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