Seller says 'no building permit required'

Posted3/28/2021 6:00 AM

Q: The home I'm buying has a 250-square-foot family room that was completed several years after the home was built. The room was originally rough-framed when the home was built, but the finish work and electrical wiring were installed after the house was approved for occupancy. The seller says all of the work was done by licensed contractors. According to his general contractor, a permit was not required because no square footage was added to the original structure. Is this work truly exempt from permit requirements, or could the lack of a final inspection cause future problems?

A: The seller was clearly misinformed by the general contractor. According to section 105.1 of the International Building Code: "Any owner or authorized agent who intends to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish or change the occupancy of a building or structure, or to erect, install, enlarge, alter, repair, remove, convert or replace any electrical, gas, mechanical or plumbing system, the installation of which is regulated by this code, or to cause any such work to be done, shall first make application to the building official and obtain the required permit." That's quite a mouthful for one sentence, leaving no room for exclusions or interpretations.


Your municipality may use a code other than the IBC, but all building codes used in America contain similar verbiage. For example, the Uniform Building Code, which predates the IBC, states "no building or structure regulated by this code shall be erected, constructed, enlarged, altered, repaired, moved, improved, removed, converted or demolished unless a separate permit for each building or structure has first been obtained from the building official." Exceptions in the code include works not exceeding 120 square feet in area, unless electrical, plumbing or mechanical work is involved.

The seller and his contractors should apply for an after-the-fact building permit and should make whatever improvements are required to satisfy the local building department.

Q: Whenever my air conditioner is running, I can hear a dripping sound up in the attic. I've checked for leaks everywhere but can't find any moisture. What could be causing this problem?

A: The dripping you hear may be faulty condensate drainage in the air unit that is presumably in your attic.

An air conditioner is essentially a refrigerator, and water vapor in the air can condense on the cold surfaces inside the unit, just as water droplets form on the surface of a cold glass. This moisture then drips into a pan where it is conveyed out of the building by way of a condensate drainpipe. If there is any restriction in this pipe, the water will drip into an overflow pan under the air conditioner. That may be the source of the dripping sound you hear. A licensed HVAC contractor can confirm this diagnosis and make whatever repairs are needed.

• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

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