Help! Unpermitted Work. Can I Still Sell?

Help! Unpermitted Work. Can I Still Sell

Selling a house with unpermitted work can be a challenge for homeowners. Unpermitted work refers to renovations or additions made to a property without the necessary approvals from the local building department. This can raise issues with real estate agents, home buyers, lenders, and municipality regulations, potentially affecting the market value and saleability of the home.

How to Identify Unpermitted Work

Identifying unpermitted work in a construction or renovation project is crucial to ensure compliance with local building codes and regulations. Unpermitted work can lead to safety hazards, legal issues, and complications during property transactions. Here are some steps to help identify unpermitted work:

Reviewing Past Renovations and Additions

The first step is to review any past renovations or upgrades you or the previous owner have made. This includes looking at structural changes, electrical work, and other significant alterations. Cross-reference these with city records and permit requirements to determine if all changes are accounted for with the proper licenses.

Consulting with a Real Estate Professional

Engaging a real estate agent or realtor with experience in dealing with homes with unpermitted work can provide invaluable insights. They can assist in reviewing the permitting process building codes and advise on the potential impact on selling your home. 

For those thinking, “I need to sell my house fast in Memphis,” a knowledgeable agent can be a crucial asset.

Conducting a Home Inspection

A thorough home inspection by a licensed home inspector can reveal areas of your home that may have unpermitted work. Inspectors check for compliance with local building codes and can identify any unpermitted additions or modifications. 

This step is especially important for homeowners undertaking DIY projects or using a licensed contractor without verifying permit acquisition.

Additionally, consulting with neighbors or local community members who may have historical knowledge of the property’s modifications can provide further insights into any unpermitted work that might be later apparent.

Checking with Local Government Offices

Visit your local permit office or building department to check for permitting process records and building codes. They can provide information on the house’s history any retroactive permits that can be obtained, and advise on the next steps. Understanding local government rules is essential in places like California, where regulations might be stricter.

Recognizing Potential Legal and Financial Implications

Unpermitted work can lead to legal trouble with local government, challenges with mortgage companies, or the need for costly repayment to bring the property up to code. Understanding these potential risks upfront is crucial and considering whether obtaining retroactive permits or rectifying the work is feasible.

Options For Resolving Unpermitted Work

Dealing with unpermitted work in a house can be a complex issue, but there are several approaches homeowners can take to address this before a sale.

Getting a Retrospective Permit

Obtaining a retroactive permit involves submitting the unpermitted work to the local permit office or building department for approval. This process may require the homeowner to present blueprints or detailed work descriptions. Although it can be time-consuming and sometimes costly, securing a retrospective permit legitimizes the renovations and can ease the selling process.

Offering a Repair Contingency

A repair contingency in the sales agreement allows potential buyers to purchase the home with the understanding that they will undertake the necessary steps to correct the unpermitted work. This option can attract buyers willing to take on a project or have specific plans for further home improvements.

Getting Unpermitted Work Appraised

Having the unpermitted work appraised by a professional can provide an estimate of its impact on the home’s value. This appraisal can be a valuable tool in negotiations with home buyers, especially when determining an appropriate sale price that reflects the value of the work, even without permits.

Consulting with a Real Estate Attorney

Engaging a real estate attorney can help homeowners understand the legal implications of selling a house with unpermitted work. They can guide disclosures, potential liabilities, and strategies to mitigate legal risks associated with the sale.

Disclosing Unpermitted Work to Potential Buyers

Transparency is critical when dealing with unpermitted work. Homeowners should disclose this information to potential buyers, possibly through a real estate agent. Full disclosure can prevent future legal issues and build trust with buyers.

It’s also beneficial to consult with home renovation experts who can provide estimates for bringing unpermitted work up to code. This information can aid in decision-making about whether to correct the work or adjust the asking price accordingly.

Selling As-Is to a Real Estate Investor

If you are constantly wondering how to sell my house fast in Bartlett, real estate investors often purchase homes as-is, including those with unpermitted work. This option can be a straightforward solution, especially if homeowners want to avoid the hassle of obtaining permits or undertaking repairs.

Assessing the Cost vs. Benefit of Correcting Unpermitted Work

Homeowners should weigh the costs of correcting unpermitted work against the potential benefits. Sometimes, the investment in time and money may not significantly increase the home’s market value or appeal to home buyers.

Market Analysis with a Realtor

Consulting with a realtor can provide insights into how unpermitted work impacts house sales in your area. They can perform a market analysis, considering local building codes and buyer preferences, to determine the best action.

A realtor can provide a comparative market analysis (CMA), which compares your property to similar homes in the area that were sold recently. This analysis can help you understand the potential impact of unpermitted work on your property’s value compared to others in the neighborhood

Exploring Cash Offer Options

There are numerous benefits of selling your house to cash buyers. They can provide an alternative route for homeowners with unpermitted work. These buyers often purchase properties in their existing condition, offering a cash offer that eliminates the need for extensive paperwork and time-consuming processes.

Additionally, these cash transactions are typically faster than traditional sales, bypassing many of the steps in securing a mortgage. This speed can be beneficial for homeowners looking to resolve issues related to unpermitted work quickly.

Negotiating with Mortgage Companies and Lenders

If the property has an existing mortgage, homeowners should discuss the situation with their lender. Some mortgage companies may have specific policies or suggestions for handling unpermitted construction.

It’s also important to consider how unpermitted work might affect refinancing options. Homeowners might need to rectify any unpermitted work before a lender approves a refinancing application, as lenders often require a property to meet specific standards.

Can You Sue the Previous Owner for Not Disclosing Unpermitted Work

Can You Sue the Previous Owner for Not Disclosing Unpermitted Work

When discovering unpermitted work in a newly purchased home, homeowners might wonder about their legal recourse against the seller for non-disclosure.

Understanding Legal Grounds for a Lawsuit

The feasibility of suing the previous owner hinges on whether the unpermitted work was knowingly concealed during the sale process. Most real estate transactions require sellers to disclose known issues, including unpermitted construction. Failure to do so can be grounds for legal action, particularly if it can be proven that the previous owner was aware of the lack of necessary permits.

Gathering Evidence and Documentation

To pursue legal action, homeowners need to gather evidence such as home inspection reports, disclosures from the sale, and any communication with the previous owner about the property. This evidence can support claims that the seller was aware of and failed to disclose the unpermitted work.

Consultation with a Real Estate Attorney

Seeking advice from a real estate attorney is crucial. They can assess the situation, review city records and permit requirements, and advise on the likelihood of a successful lawsuit. Legal professionals can also guide the process of seeking repayment or compensation for the undisclosed work.

Additionally, contacting local homeowner associations or community groups can be useful. They might provide insights or share similar experiences, which can inform your approach to handling the situation with the previous owner.

Alternatives to Legal Action

Before pursuing legal action, consider alternative solutions. These might include negotiating with the previous owner for a settlement or exploring retroactive permits. Legal action can be time-consuming and costly, so weighing other options is advisable.


Navigating the sale or purchase of a house with unpermitted work can be a complex and challenging endeavor. It requires a thorough understanding of building codes, permitting processes, and the potential legal implications. Homeowners should consider all available options, from obtaining retroactive permits to disclosing unpermitted work to potential buyers. In cases where unpermitted work is discovered post-sale, legal advice is essential to determine the best course of action.

For those looking to sell their property swiftly without the hassle of resolving unpermitted work, companies like Fair Cash Deal offer a viable solution. They provide cash offers for houses in any condition, offering a straightforward and efficient sale process. This can be particularly beneficial for sellers who want to avoid the complexities and uncertainties of dealing with unpermitted work.

If you’re dealing with unpermitted work and want to avoid scams when selling your house, reach out to Fair Cash Deal for a hassle-free experience and expert guidance through the selling process.

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