Contractor Didn’t Pull A Permit? (Here’s What You Can Do)

What Do I Do If a Contractor Didn’t Pull a Permit

In many cities, even installing a ceiling fan without a permit is illegal. Therefore, it’s important that you have a permit for all major renovations.  Hopefully, you have a contractor on the job, as it’s their responsibility to get (or pull) the permit, but what if the contractor didn’t pull the permit? 

If your contractor didn’t pull a permit, you have to pay a fine, and it can be double the cost of what you initially would have paid. You will also need to apply for the permit retroactively, otherwise, you’ll face legal issues regarding code non-compliance. Not having a permit can also cause future problems with leasing or selling your home since it won’t pass inspection. 

General permits are required for expanding a home’s square footage, tearing down walls, and jobs done by a general contractor. Specialized jobs may require a licensed professional such as a plumber or electrician to be added to the permit. If a permit is not applied for, it could mean “not pulling a permit,” which can get you in big trouble.

Need to file your permit? Use a service.
Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.


What Does It Mean To Pull A Permit?

In most states, individual counties require that you receive a permit before doing any type of work on your home. You must have a contractor turn in blueprints, materials, and other specifications that must be approved.  

In some cases, there may be an inspection required beforehand to make sure the job is possible to do safely. They may check to see if your job changes anything about your home, such as zoning restrictions. There will likely be a second inspection afterward to ensure the work was completed up to state codes.

My Contractor Didn’t Pull A Permit. What Do I Do Now?

If you’ve discovered your contractor was not licensed and insured or did not pull the permit, you need to act. It’s best to contact the city or county permit office. Explain what happened; they will likely appreciate your honesty.   

If the work is already completed, you can still get a retroactive permit following the steps above. You may have to provide additional documentation like receipts, pictures, and allow for an inspection. They may require that you get a new contractor or assign an investigator to your case.

You can also confront your contractor and ask them to fix the problem. You may even want to hire an attorney to make sure the problem gets remediated.

Take Your Contractor to Small Claims Court

If you end up paying fines for not having a permit, you may have to sue your contractor. You may also have to sue if you’re unable to get a permit for whatever reason.

Small Claims Court will generally run you a filing fee of $20-150 but will save you attorney fees. You’ll be able to represent yourself and can claim losses up to $5000 to $10,000, depending on your state.

Note: Whether or not you recover funds from a contractor, you’re obligated as the property owner to pay the fines.

If Your Contractor Didn’t Pull A Permit, Work Out A Plan

If your contractor failed to pull a permit, for whatever reason, it’s their obligation to try to fix the problem. Let them know in writing that it’s their responsibility to fix it by a certain date.

If they do not make good on their agreement, take them to court or ask the permit office to help. If your contractor has flaked and won’t answer your calls, they may not be licensed, and you should report them.

Write A Review And Let Others Know Your Experience

Everyone makes mistakes, but all professionals should definitely know to pull a permit. If your contractor fails to do this for you, you need to let others know. At the very least, so that no one else goes through the same headache.

Write a review through social media, Facebook, Next Door, Yelp, or Angie’s List.  Advise others about what you went through and what the company did right and wrong. You may even take up a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or the licensing bureau that licensed your contractor.

Contact Your Homeowners Association (If You Have One)

If you belong to a homeowners association, you can approach them for assistance. They may have an attorney on retainer who can help you out with these types of issues. They may even have paperwork on your home that you might find helpful.

You should always ask before doing work though, because a homeowner’s association may fine you for not following their rules. They may also be upset that you chose a contractor they didn’t approve of first. Many homeowners associations have their own rules for permitting, on top of city or county regulations.

What If My Contractor Didn’t Pull A Permit For Electrical?

There are different kinds of permits for different types of work, all with varying degrees of severity.  Electrical work is some of the most dangerous, and therefore requires a licensed professional on your permit.

Not getting an electrical permit is a big deal. Not only can both you and your contractor be injured, but you could be held liable for any future damage. For example, a fire that spreads to neighboring homes.

What If My Contractor Didn’t Pull A Permit For Roofing Work?

You also need to get a permit for various other jobs, including new walls and roofs. A good roof keeps out wind and rain that can harm your home’s contents. If there isn’t a permit for your roof, this may affect future insurance claims.

What Are The Permit Laws In My State?

Permit laws vary by state, so it’s best to check with your county’s Code Enforcement office for more information. You can also hire an architect or lawyer that specializes in permitting, but this could cost thousands.

When in doubt, a good rule of thumb is, if a wall comes out, you need a permit. If your job is big enough to need a dumpster, you probably also need a permit.

What Happens If I Don’t Have A Permit?

If you do work on your home without a permit, the punishments can range from warnings to hefty fines. The fines can be as expensive as $100 a day. If fines go unpaid, they can put a lien on your house.  

Additionally, you may have to put all new work on hold while you sort out the permit mess. It can also lead to problems in the future, like not being able to sell or refinance your home.

When you try to sell or refinance you typically need to get a home inspection. Part of the inspection process is checking for proper permits on various additions and other renovations. If you don’t have to correct permits, your home won’t pass inspection which will hold up your deal.

Plus, not having a permit can lead to insurance claims not being paid out.

How Can I Get A Permit?

If work hasn’t started yet, you can apply for a permit using these steps:

Step 1: Call Your Local Building Inspector

First, call the office of your local building inspector to determine if your project requires a permit. They’ll let you know which materials to use and steps to follow. You’ll likely have to pay a fee to submit your permit application. 

Step 2: Collect Information

Find out what information the permit office needs, and gather it together. The permit office may require sketches, notes, diagrams, measurements, and surveys. You may be required to hire a surveyor or architect to get the necessary information.

Step 3: Submit Your Documentation

Submit the required documentation along with your application for approval to your local building inspector or city hall.  

Note: The permit’s cost is traditionally paid for by the contractor, so that should be included in your dealings with them.

Need to file your permit? Use a service.
Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.


Related Questions

How can I check and make sure my contractor pulled a permit?

As soon as you sign the contract and issue your first payment to the contractor, ask to see a permit.  If they can’t show you proof of obtaining one, it’s now time to call the permit office. Checking with your local municipal office can let you know if your job even requires a permit.

What if my neighbor’s contractor didn’t get a permit?

While you can’t control your neighbors, you have a right not to have shoddy work affecting your property. For example, in the case of a fire, your home could be adversely affected.  

Go through the steps above, but talk to your neighbors before taking action. It’s their responsibility to speak to the contractor as they are the ones who chose and hired that company. 

Related Guides

Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent’s former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

Recently Published