R&B superstar R. Kelly can add a long list of building code violations to a career already rocked by allegations of sexual misconduct and physical abuse. Kelly’s Chicago recording studio was recently found to be in violation of 67 building codes running the gamut of everything from a staircase not properly secured to a wall to a steam room and sauna built without permits. Most significantly, remarked Kimberly Roberts, attorney for Chicago’s Law Department, “the entire recording studio was built without plans or permits issued, which means
we have no way of knowing what’s behind the walls.” If the court determines that Kelly did make substantial modifications to his studio without the proper permits he could incur thousands of dollars in fines.
Worcester area contractor and certified building inspector Carl Lund commented that many ordinary people fail to recognize the importance of pulling a permit. What homeowners typically don’t understand, Lund explained, is the cost of bringing a project to code at a later date. Even if the project was completed years earlier, current code requirements need to be respected. It is usually far cheaper to take out a permit when the work is first done than to run the risk of having to tear down walls, pull out plumbing or wiring, or even to shore up a foundation, to bring the project to code in the present.
Additions and remodels completed without permits can cause a litany of problems for homeowners. If discovered by a potential buyer, the sale price could take a direct hit. Some buyers might prefer to walk away rather than take on the expense of bringing a building to code. In some cases, substandard work could result in costly construction failures. Alon Toker, president of the Los Angeles area chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, recalled one homeowner suffering over $140,000 in flooring damages because an unlicensed worker installed plastic rather than rubber tubbing when connecting an ice maker in the family’s main living space.
Many homeowners make the mistake of thinking that it not worthwhile to take on the extra cost of permits and the delay of waiting for a building inspector. When ducking the building codes, Popular Mechanics highlights several common mistakes made by over eager DIYers. 1) Running your bathroom vent into an enclosed attic is a code violation because it can lead to the dangerous build up of mold and could weaken the structural integrity of the wood. 2) Improperly wiring outlets into junction boxes could result in fires. 3) Installing handrails on stairways without making sure they terminate in 90 degree turns directly into the wall could contribute to a serious fall. 4) Failing to properly secure a deck to your house with a ledger board could literally kill the party. 5) Improperly wiring or placing smoke and fire detectors could be even more lethal.
Even when you do take out a permit, keep in mind that it is ultimately the responsibility of the contractor and homeowner to make sure that permits are closed with a final inspection. Sam Houghton of the Cape Cod Enterprise reports that many homeowners are completely unaware of permits that were never closed. For builders, Houghton writes, it is often not a priority to complete the final inspection. Swamped with request for thousands of permits a year, local building department can’t keep track. Often, it is only when a house is up for sale that homeowners become aware of a permit that was never closed.
Unsure about which types of work require building permits? Most building departments post detailed guidelines on their websites. For the town of Shrewsbury, “When is a Building Permit Required?” is the question at the top of Shrewsbury’s Office of the Building Inspector’s on-line FAQ list—although the answers to these questions are expressly qualified as general guidelines and in no way “legally binding.”
A building permit is required whenever a project includes construction, reconstruction, alteration, repair, removal or demolition of a structure; change in use of a building or structure; or installation or alteration of any equipment that is regulated by the State Building Code. This includes, but is not limited to, new structures, additions, dormers, chimneys, wood stoves, decks, roofing, siding, swimming pools, antennae, and sheds. The only exception is an ordinary repair. (Shrewsbury Office of the Building Inspector)
Thinking about ducking the codes? Think twice and take time to inform yourself about your local building codes. For your personal safety, peace of mind, and financial security, pulling a permit could be the best decision you ever make.
Jeff Collins, “Do you really need a building permit? The decision could cost you,” The Orange County Register, September 9, 2014.
Jill Chodorov Kaminsky, “If you think getting a building permit for a home renovation is a hassle, here’s what can happen if you don’t have one,” The Washington Post, July 31, 2018.
Sam Houghton, “Unresolved Building Permits Can Pose Problems For Homeowners,” The Enterprise, August 29, 2014.
Jason Meisner, “Judge orders 2nd-flooring living quarters closed at R. Kelly’s recording studio after fire hazards found,” Chicago Tribune, January 23, 2019.
John Rita, “7 Building Code Violations You Should Definitely Avoid,” Popular Mechanics, October 7, 2015.
Conversation with Carl Lund, Worcester area contractor and certified building inspector.
2/12/2021 05:41:46 pm
It's good to know that you can see detailed guidelines on building department websites. I just need some building supplies for my house project. Being able to see it on a website would be nice because then I can see what supplies are available.
8/27/2021 04:40:12 pm
I thought it was interesting when you pointed out that building permits are needed for construction. Are building code experts the only ones that can give out permits? Working with a code expert seems important in this situation.
6/27/2022 08:51:01 am
By far the biggest mistake do-it-yourselfers make is not getting the right permits
2/7/2023 08:55:05 am
If you're a renter, you may not be used to thinking about building code violations. But if you're a landlord, it's something you need to be aware of. Building code violations can result in hefty fines, and they can also make your property less attractive to potential tenants.
3/5/2023 07:27:24 pm
Appreciation for really being thoughtful and also for deciding on certain marvelous guides most people really want to be aware of.
3/22/2023 09:33:30 am
Such an interesting and cool post. Keep sharing!
4/17/2023 05:20:27 am
I now understand how important it is to follow building codes and regulations for our safety, financial security, and peace of mind. It's great to see professionals like Carl Lund educating homeowners about the importance of permits and complying with building codes. Let's take responsibility for our construction projects and prioritize safety over convenience.
4/25/2023 09:19:38 am
If you don't comply with building codes, you may be on the hook for fines and an expensive tear-out and redo of your project.
5/30/2023 12:53:04 pm
The dangers of bypassing building codes are not to be underestimated, as they can result in hazardous conditions, like mold buildup, fire hazards, and even structural failures. Even when permits are obtained, it is crucial to ensure that the process is properly closed with a final inspection. Taking the time and effort to pull permits can ultimately safeguard personal safety, provide peace of mind, and protect financial security.
6/2/2023 08:17:57 am
This blog, 'Building Code Violations Don't Rock,' sheds light on the importance of adhering to building codes and regulations in construction projects. While the blog focuses on general building violations, it serves as a reminder of the significance of compliance in every aspect of a project, including painting. Painters play a crucial role in ensuring that the painting process meets safety standards, proper material usage, and environmental regulations. By hiring professional painters who are well-versed in building codes, homeowners and contractors can avoid potential violations and costly penalties. This blog serves as a valuable reminder for both painters and clients to prioritize compliance with building codes to ensure the integrity and quality of construction projects. A well-written and timely piece that emphasizes the importance of following regulations in the painting industry.
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Rick Derderian is the sales manager at Shrewsbury Lumber. He has years of experience working with contractors who do everything from back yard decks and additions to new hotels, schools and apartment buildings. This blog aims to share perspectives and to encourage responses that might help with your project.