Unpermitted Porch or Other Home Improvement: Am I Liable for Fixing the Previous Owner’s Work?

work done without permit by previous owner

work done without permit by previous owner

Buying a home is a significant investment, and ensuring you’re getting what you paid for is essential. Due diligence includes checking that any work done on the property was permitted and is up to code.

Often, previous owners have done work without obtaining the necessary permits. Unpermitted work can cause significant headaches for a new homeowner, especially if the work is unsafe or needs improvements to meet current code requirements.

Let’s explore the legal implications of unpermitted work done by the previous owner, including whether you are required to fix the work and what you can do about it. And if you need legal advice, contact our Chicago building permit attorneys at 1818 today.

What is Unpermitted Work?

Unpermitted work refers to any construction, renovation, or alteration done without obtaining the required permits from the local building department. These permits are essential because they ensure the work is up to code and meets safety requirements.

Common examples of unpermitted work include:

  • Building an addition or extension
  • Installing a new electrical or plumbing system
  • Replacing a roof or siding
  • Building a deck or porch

If a previous owner did any of this work without obtaining the necessary permits, you are responsible for it.

Are You Liable for Fixing the Unpermitted Work Done by the Previous Owner?

Yes. Usually, lawyers say, “It depends,” but in this case, you now own the property, and it is your responsibility to keep it up to code. If the building inspector comes to the property and finds a building violation, the current owner is responsible for fines and fixing all building violations.

What Happens if You Buy Property With an Unpermitted Porch?

Unpermitted work done by a previous owner can lead to fines and penalties from the local building department. It can also cause insurance issues if the work causes damage or injury, potentially resulting in your insurance company refusing to cover claims.

What Can You Do Once the Building Inspector Tells You There Is Unpermitted Work or Building Violations?

  1. Contact a lawyer experienced in building code law. A lawyer can guide you through the administrative or circuit court case and help you resolve other issues, including zoning, as you repair the work.
  2. Hire an Architect that knows the local ordinances — If you need permits, find a local architect that knows the local rules and inspectors. Too often, architects from far away try to submit plans not in line with the local government standards.
  3. Hire a contractor — Depending on the scope of the work; you may need to hire a contractor to fix it. Be sure to pull all necessary permits and ask the contractor if they are bonded and insured.
  4. Don’t ignore the problem – The City won’t forget about the issues, and the fines will keep accumulating, so get the work done.

Stuck With an Unpermitted Porch? Contact 1818 Today

Fixing sloppy or unpermitted work can cost a substantial amount of money, be sure to have 1818 review your real estate contract to see if there are any legal options to recover the expenses from the seller or another party.
While unpermitted work done by the previous owner can be frustrating, it’s essential to take the necessary steps to fix it to avoid future legal and financial issues.
Contact us today to discuss your options.

Jordan Matyas

Jordan Matyas

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Jordan Matyas is a lawyer, lobbyist, and Founder of 1818 Legal, an Illinois professional licensing defense law firm he created in 2014. With more than 18 years of experience practicing law, he represents clients in a wide range of legal matters, including professional license defense, administrative law, land use and zoning, and state, local, and municipal law.

Jordan received his Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois — Chicago School of Law and is a member of the Illinois Bar Association.