Unpermitted construction work can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare. In Texas, where homeowners take pride in their properties, it’s essential to address unpermitted work promptly and effectively. Whether you’ve recently discovered unpermitted changes to your home or you’re considering buying a property with questionable renovations, here’s a guide on how to handle unpermitted work in Texas.

Unpermitted work is any job done that does not carry the necessary permits that make it legal. The most common examples of unpermitted work are home additions and basements. Improvements made to the home without permits can be time-consuming and prove to be expensive whether you are the buyer or the seller.

How to Handle Unpermitted Work?

So what should you do when you find out that any work has been done without a permit? The work may include plumbing or electrical work as well as structural changes. Regardless if it was done without a permit when it should have had one, you should be concerned. Make sure you first are aware of the permitting laws in your local area as they do vary from one place to another. Having permits when they are required is important so you can avoid any future problems down the road. It is important that every homeowner, whether buying or selling, is aware of permits laws, and regulations before making any changes to their home. It is equally important to hire professional and licensed workers to perform the job required. Most unpermitted work done is a solution for saving money, but risks causing further problems and more expenses. In the end, unpermitted work could be more expensive than getting the permits in the first place.

For those who plan on being in their home forever, unpermitted work is very tempting. But, the house will be sold eventually and whoever gets it will end up facing the repercussions of that decision and possible damages or expenses they did not expect. There are also some owners who deliberately don’t pull permits as a way of keeping the value of their real estate low. Acting with these short-term benefits in mind only leads to long-term serious consequences. If you find yourself buying a home that had unpermitted work done, there are a few things to keep in mind. Any home that has unpermitted work is essentially coming with baggage that you need to be prepared to deal with. These homes are often cheaper which is appealing but you need to know what you are getting yourself into.  All unpermitted work must be disclosed to a buyer before agreements are signed. You may still be held responsible for unpermitted work should city inspectors decide to look around. In some cases, the work that was done without a permit can be taken down. In other cases, you may be required to get the permit that should have been obtained in the first place so the expense ends up on you. When it comes to buying a home that has had unpermitted work, you have a few options.

  1. If the deal is reasonable and a discount on the overall price seems fair to you, take the deal. You can always plan to get the permit yourself later and take the risk for the time being to save on buying the home.
  2. You can ask the seller to fix the problem, although they are likely not interested in doing that.
  3. You can find another home to buy if the issues and risks associated with the unpermitted work are greater than the savings for the house.

As a seller, you should be aware of any unpermitted work that has been done and be prepared to offer lower pricing and the house “as is”. If you discover that unpermitted work was done prior to your ownership, you have a few options available to you too.

  1. Double-check the blueprints of the home to identify for sure if unpermitted work was done. You can easily get blueprints from the previous owner as well as the city.
  2. Once you verify that the work was done you can seek to get the appropriate permit or decide to sell “as is”. You need to inform any buyer, however, that the work was done.
  3. It is not advised to sell the home without disclosing the unpermitted work as you will be at risk of a lawsuit and serious financial loss should it become discovered after the fact.

Steps To Take If You Have Unpermitted Work Done On Your Home

Whether you’ve recently purchased a house with unpermitted work or are on the verge of buying one, it’s crucial to understand the steps required to set things right. Unpermitted work can potentially lead to a host of issues, including legal complications and safety concerns. To address this situation, begin by identifying the unpermitted work and consulting professionals to assess its condition and compliance with building codes. By following the following steps diligently, you can navigate the process and ensure your home becomes a safe and compliant investment:

Identify the Unpermitted Work

The first step is to identify the unpermitted work. This may include additions, structural alterations, electrical or plumbing work, or even something as seemingly minor as a new deck or patio. If you’re buying a property, a thorough inspection can uncover any hidden issues.

Consult with a Professional

Engage with a licensed contractor, architect, or engineer to assess the unpermitted work. They can evaluate the quality and safety of the construction and provide insights into the necessary steps to bring it up to code.

Contact Your Local Building Department

Reach out to your local building department to discuss the unpermitted work. They can guide you through the process and inform you of any necessary permits and inspections. It’s essential to establish an open line of communication to avoid any potential legal issues.

Seek Retroactive Permits

In Texas, some municipalities allow homeowners to seek retroactive permits for unpermitted work. This involves submitting plans and documentation for review, paying any associated fees, and scheduling inspections to ensure compliance with building codes.

Legalize or Remove the Work

Depending on the assessment of the unpermitted work, you may need to decide between legalizing it or removing it. Structural or safety issues may require costly corrections, while less critical work may be more straightforward to permit. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure your property complies with local building codes.

Budget for Costs

Unpermitted work can be financially burdensome, as bringing it up to code may require modifications and repairs. Budget for these costs and consult with professionals to determine a realistic estimate. This will help you avoid unexpected financial strain.

Consider Legal Ramifications

While the focus is on rectifying the situation, it’s important to be aware of any potential legal ramifications. Local authorities may issue fines or require corrective action. Consulting with an attorney experienced in property and construction matters can provide valuable guidance.

Educate Future Buyers

If you’re selling a property with unpermitted work that has been legalized, be transparent with potential buyers about the history and resolution of the unpermitted construction. Honesty and disclosure can foster trust and prevent complications during the sale.

Learn from the Experience

Unpermitted work can be a learning experience. Ensure that all future projects on your property are carried out with the necessary permits and inspections, ensuring your investments are both safe and compliant with local regulations.

Seller may lose money when selling the house “as is” so it may be more worth your while to get the permit for the work that was done. Check the local permit regulations in your area to evaluate what is required and weigh up the costs and risks. You will likely make more from the sale of your home after getting the permit which will make up for having to get it in the first place. Unpermitted work can cause problems for buyers and sellers alike, so it is best as a homeowner to always get permits before making changes to your home. If you do find yourself dealing with unpermitted work, be sure to research permit laws in your area and learn what options you have. It is always better to deal with things the right way first and avoid long-term negative consequences later on.

Handling unpermitted work in Texas may be a complex and challenging process, but it’s essential for homeowners who want to maintain the value and safety of their properties. 


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