Consequences of Not Getting a Permit
The Beginning of Permit Requirements
More than 25 years ago the Town of Bedford determined it would be in the best interest of the residents, property owners and workers to require building permits and an enforcement mechanism in those instances when the regulations were not followed. This was accomplished by including the permit requirement and enforcement mechanism within the Town Zoning Regulations (PDF) which have been updated as required by statutory changes.
Property Owner Responsibility
It is the property owner's responsibility to make sure required permits are secured any time modifications and or expansions are made to the building and its systems or if new structures are erected on their property. The current property owner will be held accountable for work done by the previous owner and will be subject to any and all penalties. The violation is not "grandfathered" because the current owner did not do the work.
When buying existing property, make sure any improvements made to the property had permits or it could end up costing you more than the improvement was worth.
When the building department is made aware of work having been done without the required permits, an inquiry is sent to the current property owner in order to verify exactly what modifications have been done. If it is determined permits should have been secured and no record exists of permits having been issued then a notice of violation is issued requesting a response and failure to respond may make them subject to fines.
The property owner is requested to respond to the notice within a given time period to provide documentation verifying the required permits were secured or begin the permit process.
- If the owner is able to provide documentation a permit was secured and required inspections were performed, the property records are corrected to prevent the error from becoming an issue again.
- If a permit is required and the owner agrees to secure the required permits then the violation is suspended until all required inspections are performed and the area in question is brought into conformance.
- Should the owner fail to respond within the original time frame outlined in the notice, a second notice is issued with a specified time frame for a response along with notification that failure to respond will begin the fine process.
Fines & Penalties
Because this is a zoning issue, the current allowable fines and penalties are dictated by RSA 676:17. The condensed version of this statute allows a penalty of up to $275 per day fine for every day the violation exists. The fines start from the day of the conviction of the violation or from the day notice is first served whichever is earlier. For example, if from the date a property owner first receives notice of the violation till the date they get the required permit 10 days elapse, then the potential fine is $2,750 for what may have been a permit that cost $60.
Other Possible Costs
This is a very oversimplified example and it does not include other costs the owner may incur.
- If the owner fights the violation by going to court and loses, the statute allows the town to recover from the owner not only the fines but the town's legal expenses for pursuing the violation.
- This does not include the additional cost incurred by the owner to expose what ever portions of the work not able to be visually inspected to verify code compliance. In a worst case scenario the $60 permits could actually cost the owner more than $4,000 in legal expenses, fines, and repairs that need to made after hidden work is exposed and that is on top of what they paid to have the work done in the first place.
- These numbers do not include the penalties permitted under the building ordinance.
Please do not be mislead by building supply people, contractors, acquaintances, and others when they tell you:
- Don't get a permit the inspector will only make the cost of the job go up.
- It will slow up the work because we will have to wait for inspections.
- If you get a permit your taxes will go up.
- You don't need a permit its not structural.