I have never seen a citizen call or go to the township, and say..."I want to do X to my home, here's what is there now, do I need a permit or building/zoning approvals?" and the town just randomly send out an inspector. Their resources are limited and they don't want to give themselves unnecessary work. They make the determination based on what's there, what needs to be done, what the ordinances say, and then let you know if you need to apply for anything and how to dgo about it.
Since we don't know how finished or unfinished Ken's attic is, other than it has a window and a closet, let's assume it's not finished.
Ken...here's the link to the Elizabeth Zoning application form. It CLEARLY says:
"WHAT USE, CHANGE, OR ADDITION, IS NEEDED? (For example, "finished attic" or "change
one- to two-family," or "demolish garage and replace underneath house," or "convert pizza parlor to
beauty salon."). So if you are "finishing an attic" or converting it to a bedroom, you very well might need approval.
Here's a link to the Elizabeth Building code application form. It clearly indicates approval needed for electrical (ie: if adding outlets), fire inspections, insulation approval, which would need to be done if the room needs more than a door.
The zoning ordinance in Elizabeth says :
15.12.500 - Required space in sleeping rooms.
"In every dwelling unit of two or more habitable rooms, every room occupied for sleeping purposes by one occupant shall have a minimum gross floor area of at least seventy-five (75) square feet. Every room occupied for sleeping purposes by more than one occupant shall have a minimum gross floor area of fifty (50) feet per occupant thereof. Every room used for sleeping purposes shall have a minimum width of seven feet and a minimum floor-to-ceiling height of seven feet."
It also says:
17.36.050 - Bedroom density.
For each residential structure on an individual zone lot, bedroom density shall not exceed the maximum density permitted in the district in which such structure is located, as specified in Schedule IB.
Again, I stress, if you are thinking about doing the changes, ASK first, then decide if you want to move ahead with the changes based on the replies you get. There are very specific building and zoning codes you must meet, as you can see. You may very well be able to do the work yourself and save costs by not using a contractor, but if it needs a permit and/or inspections to be LEGAL...GET IT !!
I do agree with you that before you list the property, there should be some sort of review of how the town is classified according to the assessment (and I recommend utilizing the free assessors tool for every property in the state offered by the assessors board http://www.njactb.org) but the idea of just go to the town and they will know what to do is doing a disservice and making assumptions for the person asking the question.
His question was how to make it a LEGAL bedroom. That means he's needs to find out from the town what is required and allowed ...PERIOD...from both zoning and building departments which have different and overlapping code requirements..
How irresponsible to suggest he just add a door.As a realtor you know there needs to be, at a minimum, a fire inspection for smoke and CO detectors when the bedrooms are already present, so he would definitely need a fire inspection if converting a "room with a closet and a window" into an actual permanent living space. IMHO making sure the room meets fire code to prevent a tragedy far outweighs the possibility of a minor tax increase or cost of the inspection.
I bet if you had a buyer for this home in the future and it had unreported, unpermitted bedroom you'd be all over the owner for inspections and permits.
Penny wise and pound foolish just doesn't make sense. If all he needs to do is add a door then he's fine.. no harm no foul. Believe it or not the purpose of these rules are for safety of the residents. The fact that municipalities charge to make sure things are done properly should not deter anyone from doing it correctly right from the start.
Keith correctly answered the question to begin with considering the information given. All recommendations to go to the zoning officer and get the municipality involved prematurely might cost ken some money he does not have to spend in taxes until it is necessary to spend. I would state that in my experience of working with municipalities, that most municipalities just for examining something like this will charge some sort of review fee and the information by law has to be posted in a publicly available document.
So what I would recommend to ken is:
1) Get the zoning code from the town (preferably on-line) if it is available, and if not go to town hall and review whether your zoning would allow the use
2) Do the work himself or call a local window and.or door company or local contractor to complete the work
3) Decide based on the zoning whether there will be a problem completing the work and if it does require extensive work with a contractor at that point call the building inspector.
But telling someone to run to the town when they don't have to could be a waste of their time and money on a simple question which required a simple answer, which was my original point.
You'll also want to check to make certain that there are no zoning regulations that may limit you to a specific number of bedrooms. It definitely pays to work with a contractor who is well known in your local area as they will already be completely familiar with the process and can guide you through it to make certain everything is done legally so that there's no future issues with the State or County.
Yes adding a bedroom might change your assessment and raise your taxes, but I thinks it's a bit irresponsible to suggest NOT following the rules and finding out what can or cannot be done legally, how to do it legally if you so choose, and the impact it will have on assessment if that's a concern.
Regardless of if you are thinking of selling now or not, imagine if you didn't get permits and didn't know how to build to code, and there was a fire? Imagine when you do try to sell and the house is recorded as a 2 bedroom and you built a third, especially without permits...headaches galore.
Better to do it right , right from the start.
Yes, getting the proper permitting is important to avoid head ache, but I think the question that needed to be answered was to make sure that the room has a proper doorway as it might already qualify.
Since it will be a living space it will have to meet specific building codes for safety purposes which is why you will need plans of some sort and inspections along the way.
Do not do this without getting the proper permits first. It could cause a heap of problems, especially if you decide to sell in the future.
Re/Max Infinity Top Achievers
..........I Get Results!..........
Cell - (609) 972-1796
Please tell your family and friends about my services...thanks!
Re/Max of New Jersey 100% Club, 2012
Re/Max of New Jersey Executive Club, 2011