Building Without A Permit: What Are The Consequences?

If you are thinking about renovating or extending your home, it is important to understand the consequences of failing to obtain a building permit.

Building approvals, or permits, ensure that your renovations meet safety codes and standards set by your local authorities. While it might be tempting to skip this step, doing so can lead to a host of problems and consequences.

In this article, we will explore the potential penalties of building without approval, the projects that require permits, and what projects don’t need approval.

What Happens if I Get Caught Building Without A Permit?

Paying Fines

If you’re caught building without a permit, fines will be imposed. The amount of the fine depends on the scope of the project and the specific violations. In some cases, jurisdictions might fine you daily while the construction is ongoing. If the work is discovered after completion, fines will still be imposed, and you might be required to obtain retroactive permits. Contractors and homeowners might both be fined for the same violations, leading to avoidable additional costs.

In Queensland, unlicensed building work (since 2017) for repeated offences includes up to 1 year’s imprisonment or a hefty fine of up to approx. $44,000.00. The BF Act amendments introduce the following maximum penalties for a breach of section s42 QBCC Act:

  1. for a first offence – a fine of up to approximately $32,000.00;
  2. for a second offence – a fine of up to approximately $38,000.00; and
  3. for a third offence – a fine of up to approximately $44,000.00 or 1 year imprisonment.

Also read: Obtaining a building approval in Queensland

Pausing or Demolishing the Project

Building inspectors have the authority to halt your construction project until the required permit is obtained. In more serious cases, they might even order you to demolish the unpermitted project entirely, forcing you to redo the work with proper permits. This not only wastes time and money but also underscores the importance of following proper permitting procedures from the start.

Voiding Your Homeowner’s Insurance

Undertaking renovations without the necessary permits can jeopardize your homeowner’s insurance coverage. If damage occurs due to the renovations, your insurance claim might be denied. This could lead to substantial costs, particularly in cases of accidents caused by faulty workmanship. Additionally, the lack of permits might negate your insurance benefits and expose you to liability issues.

Deterring Future Buyers

When selling your property, you’re legally required to disclose any remodelling projects. Buyers might be wary of properties with unpermitted work, which can deter them from making offers or lead to lowball offers. The lack of permits might also raise concerns about the quality of work and long-term issues. In some cases, you might be required to retroactively obtain permits before proceeding with the sale, adding further expenses and complications.

Being Unable to Get Proper Appraisals

Unpermitted renovations can impact your home’s value. When refinancing or selling your home, accurate appraisals are essential. Unpermitted additions might not be included in your home’s square footage, leading to inaccurate valuations. This can affect your ability to secure loans or refinance your mortgage at favourable terms.

Also read: The Building Approval Process Explained

Will Authorities Find Out If I  Have A Permit?

It is not always easy to tell if a home improvement project has been done without a permit. However, there are a few ways that the authorities may find out:

  • A city inspector may see the work being done and issue a citation.
  • A neighbour may report the work to the city.
  • The property may be reassessed, and the inspector may notice unpermitted work.

Can I Avoid Obtaining A Building Permit?

Permit requirements exist to ensure that your home renovations comply with safety codes and standards, and failure to obtain the necessary permits could lead to legal and financial consequences.

If you are concerned about the cost or time required to obtain permits, you can consult with a licensed contractor or design professional who can guide you through the permitting process. They can also assist you in comprehending the expenses and schedule linked to the permitting process, ensuring the safe and accurate completion of your project.

What Projects Can I Undertake Without a Permit?

Not all home improvement projects require a permit. Some common projects that do not require a permit include:

  • Painting
  • Flooring
  • Cabinets and countertops
  • Minor plumbing repairs
  • Minor electrical work

However, it is always best to check with your local building department to see if a permit is required for the specific project you are planning.

Also read: When Is A Building Approval Not Needed?

When Do I Need a Building Permit?

The types of renovation projects that necessitate a permit vary based on your geographical area and local regulations. However, in general, the following renovation projects typically require a permit:

  • Structural changes
  • Electrical work
  • Plumbing work
  • HVAC systems
  • Window and door replacement

Before starting any renovations, it’s essential to engage with your local building department. This will help you identify which projects require permits and ensure you obtain the necessary authorisations. Neglecting to secure the required permits might lead to fines or legal complications in the future.

How Do I Best Prepare?

Here are some tips to help you cover all your bases when remodelling your home:

  • Check with your local building department to see if a permit is required for the specific project you are planning.
  • Obtain the necessary permits before beginning any work.
  • Hire a licensed contractor to do the work.
  • Get everything in writing, including the scope of work, the cost, and the timeline.
  • Inspect the work regularly to ensure that it is being done properly.

By following these tips, you can help to ensure that your home renovations are done safely and legally and that you avoid any potential problems down the road.

Need A Building Permit?

If you need a building permit, iCertified can walk you through the process; we have accredited private building certifiers on the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

Call us on 1300 899 078 or fill out our enquiry form to discuss your building approval needs.