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House w/out Permit -- What Will the County Do?
Old 08-03-2008, 09:10 AM   #1
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House w/out Permit -- What Will the County Do?

Our neighbor's house has been on the market for over a year. The owner and his wife both died (old age), and the son is selling it.

It's a very nice house, and in the back, nestled in the woods is a small rental unit.

They finally found a buyer, and it was set to close in a few weeks. Then, they found that the house in the back had been built without a permit. The sale fell through.

What do you think will happen now?

I'm guessing that they'll come to me and other neighbors asking me to sign something that says it's OK to have a rental unit. We are not zoned for rentals, although some houses around here are rented out. I'd rather not have renters around, figuring they are generally noisier, but...
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Old 08-03-2008, 09:38 AM   #2
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You have a choice.

(1) You can refuse to sign. The consequences of that might be that the neighbor's son would have to sell the place with that structure as a guest house, or a playhouse, or quarters for a teenaged son, and so on, instead of a rental.

(2) You can sign. The consequences of that MIGHT be that there would be a rental in the neighborhood. On the other hand, somebody else might refuse to sign, and we're back to paragraph (1) above.

It seems to me that he would have to get a building permit in either case.

If it was me, and if I felt strongly against having a rental in the neighborhood, I'd refuse to sign. But then I can be kind of a, er, witch sometimes.
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Old 08-03-2008, 09:48 AM   #3
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Depends on your county Al. I know around here a seller can sell an unpermitted home or addon with full disclosures to a buyer, but if the county is made aware of the job you have to file the permits, open up whatever is necessary for a full inspection to take place, correct any code problems, and pay a fine to cover the extra inspection work. If the house is grossly out of code (studs too far apart for example) the whole thing might need to be knocked down.

They'd need to apply for a variance and correct the code issues. Good luck with that.
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Old 08-03-2008, 11:00 AM   #4
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To legally let someone live there fulltime, I would think they would need a certificate of occupancy. Some areas also require a special inspection before it can be rented (the fire marshal had to inspect our rental and we had to post the rental license in a conspicuous place on the property).

You could always ask the county what happens next...
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Old 08-03-2008, 12:53 PM   #5
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I don't see why you would willingly sign for this variance unless you have or plan to add a rental unit yourself. By signing you do a favor to the dead owners (they're dead, they don't care). By signing, you do a favor to the son, who will pocket the money, leave, and you will likely never see him again. By signing, you allow rentals in your neighborhood with all the downside of having renters, having vacancies, risking squatters or deadbeats waiting for eviction, potentially impacting your property value, etc. By signing, you establish the precedence that anyone can build anything without permit and without regard to any rules and get away with it. If you have any desire to preserve the neighborhood this will work against you, and there are no end of examples of things folks have done from building unpermitted rental units to opening business to building poorly on or over lot lines to drastic cutting of neighbors trees and ugly fences on (over?) lot lines. Why start the expectation that breaking rules is the best way to get whatever you want done. I'd suggest being as nice as possible, but absolutely refusing to sign since it can only hurt you (in many ways).
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Old 08-03-2008, 01:36 PM   #6
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first there is the permit issue as mentioned. a city can have a non-permitted structure demolished if the owner can not get an engineer to sign as-built drawings & confirm that the structure was constructed properly according to plans, specs & codes. you should be able to report that to your city anonymously if you so desire.

a second structure on a property does not by itself indicate a rental unit. it could simply be used as a second or a kosher kitchen, for instance, or, acceptable in many areas, a mother-in-law unit. sometimes these are allowed as part of a structure, like an over-the-garage unit; sometimes as a separate building, like a poolhouse; and sometimes the separate unit is "attached" to the main unit by outdoor corridor like a pergola.

often distinction can be determined by whether or not a separate electric meter was installed. only one meter for both the main house & the "mother-in-law unit" is good indication that it is not intended to be rented to others as a "rental". even if someone rents there, the owner could argue that the person is merely a roommate renting out part of a house (even in a separate, non-metered structure) and not a renter renting out a unit designed to be completely separate from the main house.

if the property is not contiguous to yours and if the building is determined to be code compliant, i don't see why you might be asked to sign a thing. if the owner goes for a variance, you would have the opportunity to petition or speak before the variance board at the time of the hearing.
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Old 08-03-2008, 08:07 PM   #7
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Depends on the state. I bought a bank owned parcel with 4 buildings on it. Code and permitting violations everywhere (including an illegal septic system!). But in the Live Free or Die (NH) state ... I was grandfathered - Until I needed to updated on of the structures.

Ended up tearing down 2 for the 4 buildings and bringing the other 2 up to code (including the septic). Everyone's happy!
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Old 08-03-2008, 08:52 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
The sale fell through.
What do you think will happen now?
I'm guessing that they'll come to me and other neighbors asking me to sign something that says it's OK to have a rental unit. We are not zoned for rentals, although some houses around here are rented out. I'd rather not have renters around, figuring they are generally noisier, but...
I wonder what scared the buyers off? A permit issue doesn't seem like a big deal.

Our home sellers 'fessed up to the civil authorities, paid a $100 fine along with the permitting fees, and had the structure classified as a storage shed. Even if they hadn't bothered doing that I'm not sure that we would have cared.

You have no reason to approve renters, and they'd probably have to go through a lot of hoops to get a zoning variance. Far easier to do it illegally or with family.
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Old 08-03-2008, 09:24 PM   #9
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America - our greatness is due to zoning regulations, our goodness to legislation.
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Old 08-05-2008, 05:38 PM   #10
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Thanks for the good information. I'll keep you posted.
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Old 08-05-2008, 06:21 PM   #11
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One of the best bumper stickers I have seen

"Make Welfare as hard to get as a Building Permit"

Not sure why you would need to sign anything- the permit issue is theirs, not yours. You mentioned that it was a small rental unit back in the woods, which leads me to believe it was already being rented out?

I would think that they need to get the building permit issue resolved with the local building authorities first- they probably can't legally let anyone occupy the dwelling without a certificate of occupancy. Then dealing with any local rental property restrictions, i.e. HOA issues would be the next step.

I would be reluctant to sign, for many of the reasons outlined by the others here- also, since you knew the rental unit was built without benefit of a permit and inspections, a slick Harvard lawyer might be able to drag you into any subsequent legal action if you agreed to let the owner rent it out, and the place burned down because of faulty wiring or collapsed in a windstormand killed someone. ("you knew this place was unsafe, Mr. Trombone, why didn't you report it to the proper authorities? Is this your signature on the rental consent form? You obviously didn't care about my clients safety. Show us the money!")

No real upside in signing.
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Old 08-05-2008, 09:20 PM   #12
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Hmm, building permits are pretty dang easy. Every time I've gotten one, alll I had to do was put in my name and address and a couple of other bits of info and write a check.

I did have to do a bunch of little BS things the inspector came up with to get the final approval, but it was always maybe a few hours of work.

So shoot, if welfare is that easy I think I might try and apply tomorrow. As long as I dont have to write a check
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Old 08-06-2008, 06:31 AM   #13
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You write the welfare check every year - it is called Income Taxes.
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Old 08-06-2008, 08:37 AM   #14
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DOH!
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Old 08-06-2008, 08:38 AM   #15
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You write the welfare check every year - it is called Income Taxes.
And not everyone who gets "welfare" is a single mother with dependent children...
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Old 08-06-2008, 09:06 AM   #16
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And not everyone who gets "welfare" is a single mother with dependent children...
Very true!
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Old 08-06-2008, 09:11 AM   #17
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T-Al, you could also remind the municipality in a nice way (in my experience it helps to be the nicest, most understanding person in the world when dealing with city staff and in hearings) that if the nonconforming use of a nonconforming structure is approved, you will be the next person in line to get a variance to put the same kind of structure and use on your property....
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