Home Buying in San Francisco>Question Details

New Buyer, Home Buyer in San Francisco, CA

Incomplete building permits?

Asked by New Buyer, San Francisco, CA Tue Jan 8, 2008

We are in the process of buying a flat that is part of a two-unit TIC, and we would like to condo convert in a year. Our contractor's inspection revealed that there are no records of final inspection or final permits for renovations made to the unit in 2006 -- there are, however, records that the permits were issued. How difficult will it be to have permits re-issued and/or the final inspections completed? Is this an expensive process?

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It is a good idea to get the owner to complete them prior to your purchase. Many times the owner has lost patience with what the City Inspector wants them to do, or how long it takes, etc. However, do not inherit incomplete permits! The Building and Safety Code is there for a good reason. Liz
2 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 8, 2008
In most areas ONLY the owner or contractor on the permit can call for a final inspection. Without the final completed in the owner/contractor's name, the local building department could require you to apply for permits from scratch. Often building codes change and you could be liable for a whole new set of rules. Have the seller close out the permits before you close.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 8, 2008
I'm with Liz on this one, the seller should provide all the permit documentation for you. Unfortunately our planning department is not quite as helpful as they may be in Hemet; and they can come back to you and cause more than a headache. In terms of converting to condo in the future, you will need to know the history of the building and any tenants to understand if you will qualify to enter the lottery. For information regarding the lottery you can go to http://www.andysirkin.com, Andy also gives seminars from time to time that answers homeowners questions about the lottery. Good luck!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 8, 2008
I am actually wondering if you are working with a San Francisco-based agent, or one who is familiar with the local market. Your agent should have been given, by the sellers, a Record of Residential Building Permits (we call it the "3R" report) in the disclosure package. The 3R has codes in it that indicate if the permits have been completed, incomplete, denied, or if they have expired. You should not have gone as far as paying $400+ for a contractor's inspection to find out you have a building with pending, expired or incomplete building permits.

As for getting the outstanding permits inspected and completed: I have nothing new to add and I concur with the previous professionals that outstanding permits have to be completed by the owner or the contractor the owner hired to do the work. Sometimes this is merely administrative (no one added it to the computer database, it was overlooked, etc), and sometimes the final inspection still has to occur.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 25, 2008
I also agree that since the permits are fairly new, 2006, as the buyer you should ask to have the work completed, i.e. final inspection.
As a former project manager I can tell you from experience that the final may have hapened but wasn't put in the computer or the general didin't call for it. If you were my clients I would advise that you ask for documentation that the final inspections was done prior to the close of escrow. If the seller can't provide the docs then ask for a sum to be left in escrow. To determine the amount call the building department and ask them what the procedure is and how much it will cost. SF DBI is really getting very good at customer service under its new administration. They will answer your questions and then you will know what has to happen. Again as your agent I would also tell you the seller might not give you what you ask for and then you will have to decide what you will do but it really doesn't hurt to ask.
It is not difficult to get the final signed-off if the job if the construction is up to snuff. Many times the general will drop the last detail because they are onto the next job. Ask your contractors inspector for his opinion of the quality of the work and you'll have a better idea of the ease of getting a sign-off from DBI.
Web Reference: http://www.JedLane.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 8, 2008
Jed Lane, Real Estate Pro in San Francisco, CA
In addition to the previous answers, when you begin the condo conversion process, the building department will look at the incomplete permits and require that they be finalized before the condo process is complete. By the way, the condo conversion process will not begin until both owners have lived in the building for one year. I've heard of the process taking 18 months to two years after that. I agree that Andy Sirkin is a great resource for both owners yo help you through the process.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 8, 2008
Home Buyer, I guess the question here is whether the property was sold to you with the insinuation that the changes had been done with permits and up to code. If so, go back the the selling agent and the seller and demand that it be made right or corrected. That is what you have a Realtor for- to protect you from this sort of thing. If the changes were made in 2006 you can't have owned the property all that long.

Patti Phillips
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 8, 2008
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