Permits for Improvements to your Home

If you are a homeowner and are thinking of making some improvements or finishing a basement or room over a garage, the first question you should be asking is “what permits do I need for which improvements?”.    The answer will most likely be “you need a permit”.

Homeowners often overlook the permit portion of remodels/improvements for several reasons.  The number one reason is they don’t want the town to know they are improving their home and pay more taxes on the property so they won’t pull permits.  The other reason is that you simply don’t know and most people won’t call the town and ask.

So why do you need a permit?  The answer is simple:  INSURANCE.  If you make an improvement, finish a basement, etc., and you didn’t pull permits and then something giphyhappens to your home and you need to file an insurance claim (i.e. flood, fire, loss) – you may be denied or not paid full amount of replacement value.  The insurance company wants to protect you from yourself.  They want you to improve and maintain your home but they want you do to it legally.  What if the cause of the fire was from faulty electrical work?  Your “contractor” didn’t pull a permit so it’s done illegally and the insurance company doesn’t have to pay out or may pay out and then drop you.  If you are dropped and need to find a new home insurance company, you may end up with Mass Fair Plan and the premiums of these policies are nearly triple the average premium.

A simple rule of thumb for permits:

  1.  If you HIRE an electrician for ANY job, a permit MUST be pulled no matter how big or small the job is.  A homeowner can do their own electrical work, a permit is still required, but the TOWN CAN REFUSE TO INSPECT.  Towns have the ability to adopt a rule that they don’t inspect DIY electrical work done by homeowners even though a permit was pulled.  Visit Mass.gov for info. And see the document below that outlines what requires a permit and what does not.
  2. Any time you are disconnecting any plumbing – a permit is needed.  This means if you are changing out a toilet, replacing the wax ring, etc. a plumber has to do it AND a permit pulled!

So if you are doing a kitchen or bath refresh/remodel/addition, you need a permit – if you change out a sink – you need a permit.  If you plan on finishing off a basement, it requires a permit.  If you are hiring an electrician to do ANYTHING, a permit is needed.

All too often, when it’s time to sell your home, the realtor, buyer or their attorney will be looking for those permits (especially for those finished basements where you added and advertised that extra “bedroom”.  So do yourself a favor and do it the right way and get the permits and the inspections and you will save yourself some aggravation when it’s time to sell or make an insurance claim.  And the towns actually check the MLS/Real Estate Websites to see who “remodeled” their home!!

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