HOW TO SELL A HOME WITH AN UNPERMITTED BATHROOM
I see this all the time: A homeowner purchased a home 20 years ago and installed a bathroom in the basement, but never pulled the required permits with the Town.
Now the owner wants to sell and when it comes time to obtain the certificate of occupancy, the Town inspector comes in and sees the bathroom, which doesn’t appear on the tax record for the property.
So he/she finds out you never pulled permits for the bathroom. In this case, many people wonder: What exactly happens? Does the inspector make you rip up the bathroom? 😱. Do you have to pay a fine? 😱.
These are common concerns for sellers in this situation. But the truth is, having an unpermitted bathroom is not a HUGE problem, so long as:
1. The bathroom was properly installed by a professional
2. There are no obvious code violations or safety concerns
3. You know your Town's specific requirements.
EVERY TOWN IS DIFFERENT! So please be honest with your Town's inspector about the situation and ask them what they specifically require in order to permit the bathroom.
So, with those 3 caveats in mind, this is what you should do to sell a home with an unpermitted bathroom:
1. CHECK QUALITY OF WORK. Again, the bathroom MUST have been installed properly by a licensed professional, or at least by someone that knew what they were doing. This is a requirement if you are going to proceed to step 2.
2. OBTAIN PERMIT JACKET. Go to the Town building department and obtain the “jacket” of permit applications that must be submitted when constructing a bathroom in a home. This includes the building, electrical, and plumbing permit.
3. FILL OUT PERMIT APPLICATION. For this step, you’ll need a licensed electrician and plumber. First, contact the company or individual that built the bathroom, and ask them for help filling out the application. They may be able to handle all 3 applications for you. Or, fill out the building permit yourself, and hire a trusted electrician and plumber for the others.
WARNING: Both the plumber & the electrician will need to examine the bathroom work and make sure they are comfortable submitting a permit for the job, since they didn’t do it themselves. This is why step #1 is so crucial. If they find certain things were done incorrectly, they may want to make some repairs to get it up to code.
4. SUBMIT JACKET AND GET INSPECTION. After completing the permit applications with the contractors' signatures and diagrams (if needed), you’ll want to submit the jacket to the building department and schedule an appointment for your 3 inspections: Electrical, Plumbing, and Building.
TIP: It’s helpful to have the contractors present of the inspections but not necessary so long as the work was done correctly.
5. PASS INSPECTION OBTAIN PERMITS. Once the inspectors come and inspect the bathroom, if the work is satisfactory, they will each issue a sticker showing the structure passed inspection. Once you obtain all 3 stickers, you have now officially “closed out” the permit! You’re done!
WARNING: If the work was not done correctly and there are obviously code violations, the inspectors will start to get very suspicious. In some cases, they may ask you to open walls and floor so they can see the plumbing. If the plumbing work is not done correctly, the bathroom will have to be removed. This is why its super important to make sure everything was installed up to code by skilled professionals.
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