Why do I need a permit? What happens if I do the work without a permit?

Why do I need a permit?

A building permit is required by Section 110.0 of the Massachusetts State Building Code (780 CMR). Anyone seeking to construct, alter, repair, or demolish a structure must first obtain a building permit. The building permit must be obtained before the start of any work and prominently posted at the job site.

Exemptions: Ordinary repairs as defined in 780 CMR 2.; Fences under seven feet tall.; Retaining walls less than four feet high.

What happens if I do the work without a permit?

Your insurance company can refuse to pay a claim (water, wind, fire or vandalism damage) involving improvements, new structures (sheds, swimming pools, decks….) or additions built without permits. If someone falls on a deck or gets hurt in a pool are examples of claims. These can happen innocently, but they can have dire financial consequences.

You could end up in violation of the new flood regulations which might involve a costly path to correct.

There is no tax savings as the Assessors will eventually discover the improvement at revaluation time and adjust taxes accordingly.

Banks are increasingly scrutinizing property on which they hold mortgages. Mortgages are often sold without notice to the owners and inspections of property are made at that time. Unpermitted modifications can cause problems.

Some insurance companies are making periodic inspections of properties that they insure. They will ask questions about new work.

If the work involves a zoning violation such as a deck, addition, garage or shed is to close to the lot line, it could require a variance. If it was unpermitted, this could hold up a mortgage or sale transfer for months and could possibly require the violation to be moved or removed.

A building permit fee can be doubled for work done without a permit.

It is the ultimate responsibility of the home owner to make sure a permit is secured. If work is done without a permit and a workman is injured the home owner may be held liable in a lawsuit. Programs are in place to prevent legal liability of the homeowner if a permit is secured prior to construction. This can even provide a guarantee of the quality of the work being done.