Outstanding Permit That I Knew Nothing About. What Can I Do?

Dear Sandy,

I bought a house and had a home inspection done as part of my due diligence. Everything was fine and we closed escrow on time.  It is now a year later and I received a letter from the City stating that there is an outstanding permit on my air-conditioner and I must get it re-inspected and pay a fee of $90.00. If I do not, I could be fined further costs. I went down to City Hall, paid the $90.00 and asked why this was happening. The “open” permit was for work done 3 years ago. I was told it was my responsibility to get the permit “closed” which would require a new inspection. Can the inspector who did the building inspection be held responsible?

Mike J.

Dear Mike,

It is frustrating, but in many inspection reports performed by licensed contractors or home inspection specialists, they exclude and waive responsibility for either unpermitted or not closed out permitted work. Often, this information is not readily available by a visual inspection, but requires a phone call to the City building department, to determine if they are any open permits. Ask your home inspector to include this service for you, or alternatively, make the call to the City yourself. Open permits can also be found on-line in a search of the public records.

In some cases, the seller could be held responsible if they did not disclose the open permit, but you would have to prove “intent” and often a seller is not aware that the open permit existed. Most title insurance policies do not cover open permits.

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