Penalizing/addressing contractors working without permits

Bernadette Hughes

Often when a contractor performs work without a permit, the homeowner is responsible with no penalty to the contractor. Does your municipality have a process or ordinance provision in place to make it the responsibility of the contractor to ensure they are not initiating work without a permit? For example, if a licensed contractor is caught performing work without a permit, they are penalized financially. If your municipality has such a program, has it been successful? How or how not?


Gary Milliman

The contractor is charged a penalty equal to double the permit fee.

Andrew Pederson

we double fee if the permit is not pulled in advance. a nearby community quadruples the fee.

Jonathan Walker

Our communities typically double the permit fee on the project. Also, if it becomes a consistent issue with a particular contractor you can file a complaint with the state licensing board. Ultimately, the company could risk it's certification and ability to perform work in many states.

We also have worked with local HBAs to publish building guides that promote the use of contractors and educate about the value of pulling permits. The great majority of contractors are usually interested in working with us to stop problems like you mention. We publish these guides online and keep them at the front counter as well as distribute to homeowner associations throughout the year.

Don Jeppson

Washoe County will usually work with the homeowners and will often waive doubling the permit fee if the contractor is no longer in business or other extraordinary circumstance is established by the owner. However, the department takes a very hard line against licensed contractors working without a permit. The contractor will be automatically reported to the State Contractor’s Board. The Board usually fines the contractor $1,000 per incident. If this is the third incident of working with out a permit the contractor could be fined up to $3,000 by the Board. If the contractor pulled the permit, the department will double the permit fee. (There is pending legislation to triple or quadruple the fee on repeat infractions by contractors.)

Rodney Fischer

August 22, 2011

Ms Hughes:

Permitting is a local jurisdictional responsibility and issuance may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction however if a permit is required and a contractor is working without one then said contractor is in violation of the Florida Building Code and Florida’s licensing laws. Please understand that this response is applicable to Pinellas County.

Specifically, failure to obtain a building permit prior to the start of construction as required is a violation of Section 104, Florida Building Code 2007 - Building; Section 489.127 (1)(h), Florida Statutes; Section 489.129 (1)(o), Florida Statutes; Section 24(2)(n), Chapter 75-489, Laws of Florida, as amended; and Pinellas County Code, Section 22-14.

Failure to obtain a permit in all probability means there is a violation for not obtaining inspections as required. Failure to obtain inspection is a violation of Section 105, Florida Building Code 2007 - Building; Section 489.129 (1)(o), Florida Statutes and Section 24(2)(n), Chapter 75-489, Laws of Florida, as amended.

Specific to the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board, my Investigators would stop the job, prepare an Administrative Complaint against said contractor, and require the contractor to comply with the local jurisdiction’s policies regarding after-the-fact permits and inspections. In all probability, an administrative fine would apply.

Should the contractor choose to relinquish his or her license rather than comply, then whether the local jurisdiction would charge the homeowner or not would at the discretion of that particular jurisdiction.

Should you have additional questions regarding contractor licensing, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Rodney S. Fischer
Executive Director
Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board
12600 Belcher Road, Suite 102
Largo, Florida 33773
Fax 727-453-3528
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Courtney Morgan

Once an owner discovers that "no-permit" can be confirmed by the permit technician for the property in question, the owner should ask to speak to the department’s Building Official or Chief Inspector. As Chief Inspector for the City of Rockville (C. Luke Morgan), I estimate that up to half of the minor home remodeling work around Rockville is performed without the mandated permits, often by do-it-yourselfers.

But this is increasingly problematic for homeowners for a number of reasons. Within the City Of Rockville, unlicensed contractors and license professional contractor after being discovered; would be required to pay for a “working without permit fee” and could also be given a civil citation and associated permitting fee or fee(s). Further, such individuals could be reported to Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MRIC) or State Fire Marshalls Office (SFMO) for possible disciplinary action against his builder’s license and fire sprinkler installers or other licensing board (plumbers for example) for further investigation. For work without a permit within the City Of Rockville, contractors are required to pay $300.00 in addition to the required fee for initial permitting. Also, there is a $150.00 fee for homeowners conducting work in their own homes, as residential owner builder.

Except - fire alarm systems, fire protection systems must be installed, modified and maintained by an individual or company with the appropriate license from the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO). Licensed fire protection contractors who are found to be engaged in work without a permit, or work conducted in a negligent manner, can be reported to the SFMO for further investigation. The SFMO may suspend or revoke the fire protection contractor’s license if the investigation determines that such action is merited.

City of Rockville, City Code Section 5-11. – License Suspension and Revocation.
(a) Licenses issued pursuant to this chapter may be suspended or revoked by the administrative authority for any of the following reasons.
(1) Work performed in violation of the applicable code;
(2) Failure to comply with any notice or order issued pursuant to this chapter;
(3) Where a license has been obtained through nondisclosure, misstatement, or misrepresentation of a material fact.
(b) Before any license shall be revoked or suspended, the licensee shall be given written notice or the proposed revocation or suspension, enumerating the charges against the licensee. The revocation or suspension shall become effective and final on the date set forth in the notice unless the licensee contests the revocation or suspension. A licensee desiring to contest the revocation or suspension shall submit a written request for a hearing before the administrative authority within ten (10) days from the date of the notice.
(c) The hearing shall be informal and the licensee shall have a reasonable opportunity to present relevant testimony and evidence. The administrative authority may conduct any investigation or research necessary to render a decision. Within fifteen (15) working days following the conclusion of the hearing, the administrative authority shall make a final decision, in writing, with respect to the suspension or revocation of the licensee. A copy of the decision and the reasons therefor shall be provided to the license.
(d) The decision of the administrative authority to suspend or revoke a license may be appealed to the Circuit Court of the County in accordance with the Maryland Rules as set forth in Title 7, Chapter 200; provided that the licensee first shall have exhausted the administrative remedy contained in this section.

In such cases where a contractor apparently deceived a homeowner, cities like Rockville will go a little easier on the homeowner while casting a suspicious eye on the contractor if he surfaces on other local jobs. Safety -- not just revenue -- is generally the chief concern of most code administrator and building departments. For the sake of peace of mind, citizens should be diligent and resourceful by investigating the history of their contractor throughout the project and if homeowner find out that unpermitted work is being done on his/her property might have to "come clean".

Alexandra Zimmermann

The City of Vista's building code allows us to double the permit fee if work is done without a permit. It does not have any language to penalize the contractor. The CA state contractors ( board is the responsible party for complaints regarding contractors, including work without a permit.

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Aug 22 2011
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