Building permits protect sellers, buyers and REALTORS®

It is very important to ensure you, as the homeowner, pull the appropriate permits when doing interior or exterior renovations. Not all work requires a permit. It is a simple matter of checking with the City of Winnipeg Permit Dept at 204-986-5140 to determine whether your renovation project requires a permit or not.

Permits are important because they ensure that the work done to the home meets current fire and building code regulations. These guidelines are in place to protect homeowners, buyers and sellers, and our Realtors. We have all seen the buyer “horror stories” that hit the news, where a buyer did not get the home they believed they were buying.

I recently became aware that any property in the City of Winnipeg can be searched for permits. A quick search at will quickly tell you about any and all permits for the property you are interested in purchasing. It is available to the public online. It can quickly tell you if the updates and renovations have been done with the required permits. This is a great tool for buyers, sellers and Realtors.

Value of permits

So why do people not pull permits? Sometimes home owners undertake a DIY project without realizing they require a permit. Their contractor may suggest it is an unnecessary expense and “they do it all the time”. (Look for a new contractor, if this is the case, if a project requires a permit — get one.) Sometimes, homeowners are busy and leave it up to their contractor and believe it is done only to find out later a permit was never issued, or never closed out with a final inspection. Finally, there are those who intentionally do not want to apply for a permit because they are concerned it will drive the renovation cost up or slow down the renovation process and take longer. 

What happens if you do not pull a permit? If anything happens, as the home owner, it is ultimately your responsibility. If there was a fire or water damage or injury that resulted from a renovation that did not have a permit, your insurance company could refuse to cover the cost.

Most policies require proper permits to be taken and they have the right to refuse coverage if the home owner did not pull the required permits. Think about this. You build a deck that does not have a hand rail or guard rail to keep people from falling off. You have friends over and someone falls and breaks a leg. They are unable to work and cannot earn an income. They sue you for negligence and loss of income. Your home owner’s insurance refuses to pay because you did not have the proper building permit in place. Now what do you do?

Don’t forget the permit

Everyone thinks things like this will never happen to them. Yet every year we are in the Home & Garden/Winnipeg Reno Show and hear stories like this from people here in Winnipeg! It happens! I would rather not roll the dice but make sure my family is protected.

The City of Winnipeg has recently begun checking the properties listed for sale and recently sold to determine if work was done with or without a permit. If work was done without a permit then the city will require the home owner to apply for a permit after the fact, where they may also have to pay a penalty as well as the permit cost for not having a permit in the first place. Your costs have now gone up!

The city can now also issue a caveat on your property for outstanding permits that will prevent the title transfer. This means you cannot actually sell your home until the permits have been cleared up and closed out. Building inspectors may require you to make modifications, changes or re-do certain aspects of the renovation in order for you to have the caveat removed to sell your home. Certain projects require an Engineers Seal.

Getting this all done when you start planning a project is less time, less costly and so much easier to do than after the fact when the renovation is done and your home is sold! It is also critical to ensure you have all the required documentation when applying for a permit. A permit will not be issued if you are missing paperwork. You can check with the permit department to ensure you have all the required paperwork beforehand.

The property disclosure statement most sellers sign requires sellers to disclose if they are aware of any work done that required a permit. Homeowners must respond honestly. Title Insurance companies are refusing to pay after possession when problems arise due to lack of a permit. The buyer then finds themselves on the hook for the cost of repairs.

The City of Winnipeg Inspectors have been diligent about responding quickly when it comes to dealing with a property sale. However, as a seller, it is in your best interest to ensure that you have your paperwork in order and even have copies of permits from all contractors, for any work done to show prospective buyers. We at KAT Reno and Maximum Impact Plus ensure we have Engineer’s drawings and permits in place for all renovation projects that require permits. It’s just in everyone’s best interest to do things right the first time!