Profile picture for RachelZhang

shall I legalize an illegal addition?

 Previous owner converted the garage to a living room, and it looks like building to code (well, I am not a contractor). If I contact the city, would they ask to take it down? I heard that it depends on the city, whether they are easy to work with. Any suggestion... Thanks
  • December 15 2012 - Downtown
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Answers (5)

Profile picture for msats
I know its been a while you asked the question . this is my experience.I was finishing my basement. while going over the plan i realized that the 2nd finished bath room i brought was on the building department plan.

the process was easy, took a permit , had a plumer verify the venting and the inspector passed it. I had to open a drywall and reinstall. the cost for inspection and plumber - 100$. Is defintely worth it.

being a bedroom remember the fire alarm and safety codes are different and have to meet. if you any change the building department , fire department will check for co/smoke alarm in all bedroom and walkways as per new law. when you selll you ahve get a fire depart compliance paper.

down the road , when you sell you are setting yourself for potential issues and extended time spend retifiing this. Most people do not go in saying , let me fix the issue over the 6 month then put the house for sale. If its an emergency you will take a hit financially as the next buyer will take cash off for all this.

Even though build deparment might be described as evil, they are people
the choice is sell it as a bedroom or additional space.
1) Check with board of health for your flow [septic / seweage] capacity. I did this to change a finished basement to a 4th bedroom.Simple summit form . If accepted you got a bedrooom , if not it will delcared as additonal space.Also,  if you have furnance door in that room. it cannot be a bedroom.
2) Talk to building guy.ask him how many walls you want to open to show insulation and framming ,maybe eletrical.  They will work with you as mine was  mostly drywalled. i opened 2 sections. shut power.cut the drywall where they can see insulation and studs.
3) Close and get the final done.

you can do it or hire some handy man to do this.

good luck

  • January 28 2013
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It would be better for your sale if everything on the property is up to "city code". Even if that means having to demolish something.
  • January 21 2013
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Nearly everyone expects a "garage" to be included in the sale of residential housing...so I would suggest you leave it as is, and when you are ready to sell someday down the road--turn it back into a garage.  Or you could just leave it and make it the potential buyer's problem.

I have always had a very difficult time selling assets without functional garages.

Best wishes from So-Cal and good luck
  • December 17 2012
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Typically it is not cost effective to convert an attached garage to living space, besides ending up with a house with a dis-functional floor plan.

But since you already have it, I would leave it 'as is', why open up a whole can of worms when you dont have to? If you want to add additional square footage, contact a contractor who can draw up a good set of plans and hire an architect if your plans warrant it.

  • December 15 2012
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First of all, you are allowed to buy a home that has an illegal addition. It is up to the buyers and sellers to determine what the value is (and the lender if you need a loan to buy it) and make appropriate corrections to the price to compensate. Now, if you want to make the home more salable in the future, or if you are concerned of someone reporting whatever the condition is which could cause discussion with the building department, you might want to look into making the addition legal, if possible. Typically the building department acts on complaints unless there is something obviously scary (not from searching the blogs on Zillow!) that is noticed, like building too close to another house at the property line, etc - but they are going to work with you to make most corrections, typically. Many cities have inspections at the sale point which - at minimum - checks for violations against the property, and you clearly already got through anything like that in your city, if applicable, at your purchase point. There are many cities which do not allow garages to be taken out for space added if there is no other place to park cars. Long Beach, CA for example, has a "garage inspection zone" because so many homes in one particular area took out 3/4 of the garage depth, leaving the garage doors only to open to a 5 foot deep storage well and added the other space to the bedrooms - so that type thing would have been caught at sale in that area.

You are not anywhere near me unfortunately, but we offer a service in our area to analyze what the issues might be in getting your unpermitted addition permitted, and I'm sure there are others in your area that would do that kind of inspection at a reasonable cost. The inspection involves looking at zoning issues, building construction issues, possibly even digging at the edge of footings to verify correct depth, looking at structural member sizes, etc. - if it was done in a "workmanlike manner" - there is some real hope that it can get approved if the site issues like setbacks are not violated. We charge about $400 as a typical fee for the couple days work, I don't know what others charge for a service like this. You'll want an architect or a very sharp realtor with an architectural permitting background to look this over.

Legalizing the addition would, if approved, increase your building area, which could then be included in any future appraised value and would therefore increase the value you would get at sale. It would very possibly also affect the property taxes, but that is a small price to pay for the increased value, our opinion. As always, check with your advisers before moving forward with anything that affects your finances - there may be some issues we haven't mentioned here. Another comment, you may want to act sooner rather than later, as it will likely demonstrate to the building department you want to work with them to do the right thing. You'll want the inspector to make his analysis BEFORE you go the building department, in case there is something that CAN'T be fixed - so you can then consider your options.

Be Well!
  • December 15 2012
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