Legalities of Ignoring NYC Building Permitting

HGTV shows are full of the joy of redesigning homes. Rarely, if ever, do they show the tedium of applying for, and then waiting for building permits. After all, paperwork is the bane of renovators’ existences. It’s common for people to try to “slip through the cracks,” doing construction without permits and hope they don’t get caught. It’s so common that this was even a subplot in a recent episode of “The Big Bang Theory.”

Even though you may want to move ahead with your plans while you feel like you have momentum, this is a bad idea.

Do I really need a permit?

In New York City, you will need a permit to construct, alter, or change the use of buildings or structures. Although minor repairs can be performed without getting a permit, most construction activities require one.

Permit applications can be expensive and time consuming – it could take one week or several months for approval, depending on the size of the project. If the city inspector has questions or requires revisions to the application or plan, this could extend the application period.

Despite this delay, it’s always better to go the proper route. Cutting corners could make the resulting project take much longer and be significantly more expensive.

Fines for work done without a permit

If you are caught without a work permit, you could face the following fines:

  • One- or two-family dwelling: six times the permit fee, with fines ranging from $600-$10,000
  • Buildings other than a one- or two-family dwelling: twenty times the permit fee, with fines ranging from $6,000-$15,000

You will also have to:

  • Abide by the city’s stop-work order
  • Apply through the proper channels
  • Resume work once the permits are granted

Trying to complete work while the stop-work order is in place will result in a penalty of $6,000 for first time violators, and $12,00 for each subsequent violation.

If you are required to stop work and start again later, costs will easily add up. Construction crews do not like being idle. If your project is stopped indefinitely, they will take on another project. Your original team may or may not be available when it’s time to start work again.

Even if work has been completed, the Department of Buildings can still issue fines. It can also require you to renovate until the work is done correctly, or remove the illegal work and start again from scratch.

New York City actively monitors work without the proper permit. In January 2019 alone, the Department of Buildings issued more than $140,000 in penalties for illegal building alterations.

NYC keeps a close watch on contractors

The Department of Buildings isn’t just concerned with building owners who complete work without proper permits. The Department has created a watchlist of contractors who complete work without the required permits within the past two years.

Contractors whose names appear on this list will be subject to increased scrutiny, inspection, and city oversight until the two year period has passed.

Avoiding legal trouble

At the end of the day, it’s far better to have your building permits in place the first time around. This process may seem clunky and difficult, which is why many people hire an expediter for assistance. Companies such as Approvall have the experience to get your application through the proper channels the first time.

Benefits of hiring an experienced expediter include:

  • Working with someone who is familiar with the Department of Buildings forms and inspectors
  • Having someone else stand in line and schedule meetings with city representatives so you don’t have to take time off from work
  • Avoiding unnecessary delays and fines due to improper permits

This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. To speak with a building permit expert, contact Approvall today.