Home Buying in Burbank>Question Details

Burbank Buyer, Home Buyer in Burbank, CA

Are permits important in Burbank?

Asked by Burbank Buyer, Burbank, CA Tue Nov 15, 2011

Many houses have converted a garage into a guest house without permit. As a buyer why shouyld I care? What if the seller didn't get a permit? What if the seller doesn't want to pay to get it permitted before selling to me?

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Burbank Buyer:

Homeowners who do not obtain authorization from the City for such a conversion 1) feel permits are an unnecessary formality, 2) are looking to avoid the additional cost of the permit and/or need for plans, or 3) do not want their property taxes to go up once the County sends a Supplemental Tax bill (triggered by final permit sign-off).

If unpermitted work is verified, the City can require that the work be torn down, or at the very least, demolished to a point where the inspector can confirm that building codes have been followed.

Any appraiser will be all over the garage conversion and whether it was done with a permit. If the permit is missing, the appraiser will not assign any value to conversion.

You can certainly buy such a property "as built" and not worry about the permits; however, that's not to say your worries are over because when it comes time to sell Buyers will be asking the same question about the property if the permit issue has not been put to rest.

Finally, and most importantly, another issue is that of safety. If you are dealing with a Seller that did not believe permits and the inspections that go along with was important, how can you really know the work was done properly without tearing into walls? How do you confirm how "stable" the electrical, plumbing, etc., and basic structure is without doing this?

In short, buying a home with unpermitted remodeling is gambling with your financial and potentially your personal safety.

-Steve
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 15, 2011
Yes permits are important. It is a buyers responsibility to investigate permits, but if you buy a house that is not properly permitted it becomes your problem. If you bring up that a seller does not have properly permitted guest house it should be corrected by the seller in a perfect world. In a short sale situation the seller doesn't have money to pay their mortgage, never mind invest in getting old work properly permitted. So buyer beware!

The punishment is if the garage burned down for example the insurance company may not pay for it if it was not permitted.

Burbank recently went on line so it's easier to research permits, and ask for information from the city. I incuded the web addtress.

About the blogger: Linwood Fullam is a Burbank resident and works as an Agent at Rodeo Realty in Studio City. Linwood lives near Bobs Boy Restaurant in Burbank, and enjoys running in Griffith park, dining in local restaurants, and local theatre at Falcon Theatre.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 15, 2011
Burbank is a city that takes permits…and law and order in general, very seriously. That being said, it has been my experience working with the City Building Department that they are very willing to work with you to permit something after the fact if you will cooperate. There are risks involved, of course - what if the non permitted area is non-conforming? You may wind up tearing it down. Can, and do they knock on your door if they suspect construction going on without permits? Yes - this happened to a client of mine who had not yet gotten a permit, but had a dumpster in front of the house getting ready for some demolition & clean up on a property we recently closed. Burbank, in my experience has been pretty fair and reasonable to work with, which is not necessarily the case elsewhere …but you should always go into a non permitted situation with your eyes open, and know that you are taking a risk. Always have a local contractor check an unpermitted area for code violations and red flags. Regarding a guest house - there are some rules in Burbank regarding guest houses, when they can, and cannot be permitted. The information is on the City of Burbank's website. listed below. Good luck to you!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 22, 2011
Without even looking at any other answers and just speaking as a contractor of 25 years. Permits are always important in any city, county, state, USA. But more important to you than anyone else if you want the square footage to count in the deal or for financing purposes.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 16, 2011
Hi Burbank Buyer,

The original owner may have had certain reasons for not wanting to obtain a permit, but there are many reasons to be concerned if a converted garage does not have permits.

Aside from the possibility that it may make obtaining a loan more difficult,and/or that the square footage may not be included in your appraisal(which will affect value) there is the issue of was the work completed to code?

Electrical and plumbing codes are there to protect the inhabitants from dangerous situations arising from poor workmanship. At minimum I would have the appropriate contractors inspect the work/addition.

Once you have completed your inspections you can make a more informed decision on how hard it would be to get a permit, what additional work would be required, any liability issues etc.

Hope this helps!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 16, 2011
Permits are very important. If you have an unpermitted garage conversion, you may be questioned on it anytime a city inspector shows at your proeprty, even if it is for an unrelated project (such as a re-pipe, or a bath remodel).
Web Reference: http://www.KobiCosta.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 15, 2011
Some buyers are more concerned than others about this. Some buyers feel that if it's been that way for a long time and there haven't been any issues, ie neighbor's who call the city to report you, than they too should have no problems in the future. Assuming that is the case, keep in mind that it may be you who wants to make others changes to the house down the road that require a permit where you need the city to come out to your property. That may make you a bit anxious. Just something to think about.

About the blogger: Sandra Cusick is a Southern California native and a longtime Burbank homeowner. If you'd like to look up bank owned properties, please go to: SandraSellsBurbank.com
There is a link under property search for bank owned homes.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 15, 2011
It can matter to your loan. If you are getting an FHA loan, they can make you take out certain things. Sellers usually won't get them before selling so you would have to get them after you buy if you wanted the changes permitted. You can check to see if permits were pulled and/or finalized by going to the permit office (located at 3rd and Orange Grove).
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 15, 2011
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