My girlfriend is a realtor who works in high end residences and condominiums. She often calls me for a quick assessment of the good and bad aspects of a listing whether it be hers or it is a property that she is about to show a potential buyer.

What we often discover is that major work has been done to these places without a permit. This becomes obvious when the necessary resale inspection is performed by the building inspectors of the different municipalities that require this resale inspection.

Now the trouble starts when trying to get it permitted, replacing or reconstructing the work that was done not to code, and passing the new inspections.

Oftentimes, this not only reduces the value of the property that is being sold but it may also delay the sale, ultimately jeopardizing the contract with the buyer.

Many times, work is done without a permit in order to cut costs. However, projects completed in this nature are usually below code standards. So, while builders might be saving the cost of the permit, as well as the time it takes to receive a proper inspection, they are often met with the consequences of these decisions down the road.

Completed work without permits eliminates or greatly slows down the ability to resell a property without the encumbrances listed above, so in my opinion, not worth it.

Sometimes these resell inspections uncover a building deficiency that is downright dangerous. Two weeks ago, my girlfriend took me to look at a small single-family house to see if it had major obvious problems before her buyer made an offer. The garage was at a basement level under the house. At the back of the garage was an older gas-fired water heater. The flue caught my attention because it did not have an obvious exit close by and travelled a flat path on the ceiling. I followed it above some shelves until it disappeared behind some boxes. Closer examination revealed that the flue ended right there under the open structure of the ceiling of the garage. Well this is bad enough if you were in the garage and that water heater was in heating mode, but what is even worse is that this area was underneath the bedroom upstairs on the main level. People have died from this build up of carbon monoxide in living areas. It is lucky that this has not happened here but I bet if you found and asked the old residents you would hear them tell you that they wondered why they often woke up with headaches and feeling lethargic.

Checks on health and safety are some of the benefits of inspections by qualified contractors. Another is correcting lack of proper waterproofing to prevent water intrusion into structures. The results of uncontrolled water intrusion is dry rot of wood structural members and the opportunity for creating a habitat for that awful fungus with the “M word,” Mold. This is another all too common problem created by bad construction that causes health problems. How many people do you know, especially, and sadly, young, that suffer from asthma? This unnecessary limiting condition was often initiated by the unlucky person unknowingly inhabiting a structure plagued by mold. Qualified inspectors will look for inadequate waterproofing details.

My advice is: when in doubt, go through the trouble of getting the work permitted. And of course, be diligent to hire a licensed contractor, more on that next issue.

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