Remediating unpermitted work is the process of getting a home up to code. If the previous homeowners made repairs or renovations that violated neighborhood or province laws, current homeowners need to take steps to qualify the work with the proper authorities. As much as 70% of the work done in Canada may be unpermitted, so the vast majority of homeowners should take note of the following facts.
Research the Laws
Not only do different provinces have different rules about which jobs require permits, but those rules can change from year to year. If the previous homeowner tore down a wall in their bathroom without a permit in 1996 before the law changed in 1997, they may not have kept the renovation information to give to the new buyer. (This is just one of the reasons why all home repairs need to be documented and logged.)
So if the rule changed between when the wall was torn down and today, the current homeowners may not be able to prove that it was done legally. Homeowners who aren't sure when the work was completed will need to do some additional work to uncover the truth if they can't get ahold of the previous homeowners.
Look at the Blueprints
Homeowners may want to ask around to learn more about how the neighborhood authorities treat unpermitted work. Some may adhere to the letter of the law, while others may be more understanding (so long as the homeowner has made a sincere effort). One way homeowners can learn more about the changes their home has undergone is to check with the original blueprints of the home.
This won't tell homeowners when the changes were made, but it does give them an idea of just how much work was done. Homeowners can go to either City Hall or the original construction company of the home to get the original plans.
Going to Authorities
Once a homeowner has done the required research, it's time to talk to a city official about what can be done. In some cases, all homeowners need is an inspector to come out and grant a retroactive permit. Many home repairs and renovations are perfectly safe, even if they weren't completed according to neighborhood code. Homeowners should give their neighborhood officials as much information as possible so they can make the right decisions.
If homeowners choose not to go to their neighborhood officials, they do have the option to sell their home as-is. However, this label often signifies to potential home buyers the home is falling apart or even dangerous to inhabit, which may not be the case. It typically makes more financial sense to remediate unpermitted work than to choose this option.
Righting a Wrong
In some cases, the current homeowners will need to make major repairs to their home in order to remediate unpermitted work. They'll be responsible for obtaining the permits, working with officials, and hiring qualified professionals to finish the job. If current homeowners can prove that the previous homeowners violated the rules, they can request the previous homeowner pay for the costs. However, this action can be complicated in practice if there isn't enough official documentation to prove that the previous homeowners made a mistake.
Remediating unpermitted work can be frustrating for Southwest Edmonton homeowners, but it's necessary to ensure both the safety of the home and to secure its future resale value. Understanding your neighborhood's code can make it easier to fix prior mistakes and avoid future ones.
By Justin Havre