According to http://www.sanjoseca.gov/building/PDFHandouts/1-1PermitExemp once you build a detached structure over 120sf of floor area you need a permit.
Work Done Without Required Permits:
Provides the two processes on how to legalize work that was built without permits - personally, I would just do it with a permit to begin with!
I would simply visit the Building Division in City Hall at 200 East Santa Clara St. and discuss your plans and get a ballpark on the permit fee. Hours are 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with limited service between 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m.
If the "shed" requires a permit and/or is not built per San Jose standards (construction, easement, etc), then your neighbor can report the project. The city will send an inspector out to assess and potentially to fine and issue a citation that requires you to remove or correct where appropriate.
Please check out the City of San Jose planning web site to see if your proposed building meets requirements. It is less expensive in the long run to go by code and permit. It also makes for better neighbor relations.
However, having said that, if there are zoning restrictions, CC&r's or local ordinances prohibiting sheds you're out of luck and will most likely have to remove it. As others have stated you're always better off getting the permit before you start a project. Hope this helps.
Grace Morioka said it best. The penalties for violations can be very expensive and you can be required to remove the structure.
Several of my clients are Building inspectors, and yes they do require people to remove unpermitted structures if those structures do come to their attention, such as a complaint from a neighbor.
The also use aerial and satellite photographs to identify unpermitted structures.
In addition to the penalties for violations, permits are also worth far more money to you than the cost of the permit.
I am a former Real Estate Appraiser. I could not give any value to any part of the home or exterior buildings that were constructed without a permit. The result is an Appraisal with a lower Fair Market Value than it should be.
The result is that will limit the amount that you can sell the property for when you decide to sell.
Essentially permits are worth money to you when you sell your home.
Also, the building code changes from time to time. If you have a permit, you are "grandfathered in" and you are not required to upgrade to meet the current building code.
If you do not have a permit you may be required to upgrade the property to meet current building code or you may be required to remove the structure at some point in the future.
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Here's what can happen--and I know this from having worked with a client who bought an REO home that was expanded without permits:
1. The City will notify you of the violation and then inspect the non-conforming item. Typically, the item will be found in noncompliance and the City will require that you remove it by a specific date.
2. If you fail to remove the nonconforming item or fail to make the necessary changes, there will be costs associated with the violation. In San Jose, the cost for community violations is $1000 PER DAY. You don't want to have this happen.
Personally, it's such a very small thing to go the City to request a permit, and the possible repercussions for not doing the right thing are so huge, I can't see any benefit in trying to "out fox" the City by not obtaining the necessary permit. Waldo, don't jeopardize your home or your finances, take the time to get the necessary permit from the city before building or setting up the shed.
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