How difficult is it to get a un-permitted structure permitted after the fact?

Asked by Jennifer, Glendale, AZ Tue Mar 4, 2008

I'm considering making an offer on a house in Glendale that has an unpermitted basement level. How difficult would it be to get that permitted after the fact?

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Ginger R.’s answer
Ginger R., Home Seller, Massachusetts
Wed Mar 5, 2008
Hi Jennifer - I'm with Karen and Ken on this. You won't know until you talk with Glendale Building and Safety Department. Here's a link:
How big a deal it is will vary greatly by area. I helped a neighbor with a similar issue. In my local area, it wasn't a big deal but tedious. It involved bringing the unpermitted area up to code, primarily electrical work But the work and permit costs did run into the thousands so I would try to get a handle on that. I don't know how mortage lenders view unpermitted space so I woud inquire about that, too.
It partly depends on what the space in the basement is - If it is bedrooms that can be more complicated eg 2 methods of legal egress, septic issues if any, etc. The good news is that it doesn't involve an expansion of the footprint and get into other issues such as setbacks and lot coverage.
In my area, it generally would not be a big deal but I would do three things: (1) Talk with the local planning dept and get contractor quotes for the work needed to bring it up to code (2) make sure that my offer included a mortgage contingency in case there is an issue with this and (3) I would talk to my attorney to make sure that I understood legal/title issues if any. (There may be none but I would spend the $200 to make sure.)
Then I would turn around & make it a very big deal with the Seller to negotiate a great price!
1 vote
Ken Herrera…, Agent, Las Vegas, NV
Tue Mar 4, 2008
Hello Jennifer,

Karen is correct about calling the Glendale planning department. Consider asking the department if the non-permitted basement level can be "Grandfathered." Perhaps you may get lucky and they will give you a permit based on it being grandfathered in, it may be a long shot, but worth the try. I have seen many transactions where a non-permitted structure is part of the deal, it's never a problem when your buying, but it can be a nightmare when you try to sell.
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1 vote
Karen Miller, Agent, Long Beach, CA
Tue Mar 4, 2008

You need to go to the city of Glendale planning dept. & ask this question. While they won't be able to tell you the exact cost, you won't know until you investigate the basement, but they can walk you through the procedure. This can help you make the decision as to whether you want to move forward. Remember, when you purchase a property, unpermitted space should not be counted towards the square footage.

Good luck,

Karen Miller
1 vote
Bob B., Home Buyer, Los Alamitos, CA
Tue Mar 4, 2008
VERY !!!! The city could require after the fact compaction tests, slab analysis, etc. Big gamble ......
1 vote
Access REO S…, , Los Angeles, CA
Fri Mar 7, 2008
"How difficult" depends on how much work is needed to bring the improvements up to code. For example, if the foundation is now a mess and a hazard as a result of the non-permitted work, the city may just announce it as "uninhabitable" and condemn the whole thing. Obviously, before you talk to the city, hire a good contractor who knows code or an independent code inspector to look things over. It can be as cheap as $3000 to re-route electrical or much much worse and the worst nightmare/money pit ever.
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