By Kay Wilson-Bolton
September 16, 2008
It’s a three day weekend and you get an urge for nesting instead of camping. Those concrete blocks in the back yard have been begging for installation and you figure it’s a good time to build that wall. The neighbors are out of town and you can work without input or insults.
Best to not do it. Plant roses, mulch the yard and straighten the garage instead.
With every jurisdiction looking for ways to pay for services that have nothing to do with providing them with traditional tax revenue sources, don’t get stuck building a wall without a permit. The costs to correct and the fees to comply are hefty. In this case, the penalty equaled the cost of the wall.
In a current situation, the preliminary title report revealed that the City had recorded a Notice of Non-compliance for a concrete block wall. An escrow cannot close without a Statement of Compliance so the task began to discover the integrity of the wall.
Four weeks and $4180 later, we discovered the wall was built to standards greater than code. How simple it would have been to get a permit, build it, get it inspected and have a building inspector sign it off.
The list of construction and installation activities that requires permits is lengthy. It generally applies to plumbing, heating, electrical and some structural work. Surprisingly enough, in some cities, the installation of a new kitchen does not warrant a permit. However the installation of new electrical outlets, ceiling fans and water lines does.
One very attractive revenue source will be the mandatory inspection of residential units as a point of sale requirement. The real estate community has managed to work with at least two cities to forestall the implementation of this requirement, so the focus has moved to mandatory inspections of multi-family units.
The budget crisis has a massive trickle-down effect that requires local jurisdictions to get creative with fees for service—including the cost of an extra trash barrel, cities providing competing services and the fee for a 911 call.
It is tempting to think that working around the permit is no big deal. In the short run, it isn’t. It will when it is time to sell and you have to disclose that the concrete wall was built without a permit.
There is nowhere to go but hire an engineer with a pactometer who will conduct a stress test to discover the amount of grout, the presence of rebar, the width and depth of the footing.
Good citizenship does not require that we pay our fair share of the hometown budget deficit. If in doubt about the permit requirements, make a phone call. If it’s a local call, it might still be free.
Kay Wilson-Bolton is the owner of CENTURY 21 Buena Vista with offices in Santa Paula and Ventura. She brings a regional perspective to local issues. She can be reached at 805.340.5025. Her web address is www.readysetkay.com