The level of approval you will need to renovate your home will depend on where your home is located and what building codes, ordinances and landmark status might apply to it. Most certainly a complete home renovation will require some permits and inspections. Knowing what to expect ahead of time and what work you can and cannot do yourself will save you lots of possible aggravation. While skipping permits and inspections may seem like a homeowner decision, doing so can halt the future sale of your home instantly as the buyer’s lender may insist that all work was done to permit and inspected.
Municipality building codes vary from region to region and city to city but they are in place to ensure the minimum requirements for using common community infrastructure, like sewer systems and central water supplies, are met. They also provide a standard for the safety of you and your family as well your neighbors and first responders who might have to enter your home in an emergency. You will need permits and inspections if you are changing structure or modifying or updating systems like HVAC, electrical and plumbing. Some municipalities still allow homeowners to do work themselves but increasingly a licensed engineer or architect must sign off structural drawings or an electrician or plumber on respective work. They may not be willing to certify your work.
Historic-landmark homes and neighborhoods may have fairly rigid ordinances that stipulate what you can and cannot do to the exterior of properties, including color and material choices for siding, roofing, doors, windows and fencing. Landmarked land has strong stipulations for what can be built on it or in the case of a residence, added on. Most who live in historic situations embrace their responsibilities and the historical preservationists and fellow homeowners who sit on oversight committees will work with you.
Homeowner and Neighborhood Associations
Although less common, homeowner and neighborhood associations may also have facade ordinances affecting what you can do to the exterior of your home. They may have landscaping and planting guidelines and restrictions on lawn ornamentation and lighting. More important, some have specific ordinances as to when and how you can perform work, where to park construction dumpsters in the driveway, where to park contractor trucks and machinery, and other issues.
Lenders and Insurance Companies
Your lender may have put a review clause in your mortgage so it can see what you have in mind, especially for major renovations. The lender obviously wants a saleable house should it end up with it. Insurance companies will generally go along with code-compliant work but may have specific enhancements they will not cover. Both may want to ensure you have complied with the necessary permits, sign-offs and inspections.
Steven Sester has written and published for others as a public relations professional since the 1970s. His areas of expertise include the fine and performing arts, home improvement, emerging technology, alternative healthcare, environmental and sustainability issues, entrepreneurship and a variety of other topics. He is a graduate of the New College program at San Jose State University.