How would you like to pay $187 to replace a bathroom fan? I’m not talking about the unit itself… I’m talking about the permit from the county to do the replacement.
Is that really going to entice county residents to adhere to the state and county building codes?
Yet, as part of the budget review for 2012-2013, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors are weighing proposed fee increases (fairly substantial, I might add) and additions (you’d be surprised) recommended by the county’s Building and Planning Departments.
One of the issues REALTORS® and others deal with in home sales is work done to a home without a permit. In a countywide health and safety sense, local governments would prefer that such work be done with a permit, as would I’m sure, subsequent owners of that home. Also, it’s the law.
So one would think local government would do things to encourage (“incentivize,” if you will) residents to pull permits, do work according to code and thereby, ensure safe dwellings.
But this is turning into a Bizarro issue. Thus the answer to getting more people to come pull a permit for improving their homes (or make said work ‘legal’) is to , charge late fees/penalties, mandate design specs where none existed before and theoretically, lengthen review times.
Some ask what’s the problem with unpermitted work? Example: a three bedroom, one bath home which upon viewing is suddenly a five bedroom, two bath house. That’s not a bathroom fan to say the least. (Note: There are ways to handle same
within the real estate transaction, which we have neither the space nor time to detail right now. Plus all of that could’ve been done with a permit… but I digress.)
Plus the whole scenario could trigger a lien recordation process, which means that each day your violation remains outstanding is a separate violation, subjecting you to potentially thousands of dollars in fines that will be recorded against your home… meaning you can’t refinance the home with such a notice as a cloud on title.
What should be done? Review fees which impact the usual and traditional work done by residents when upgrading their homes… then reduce them. Most everyone knows the county is working on solving a “budget imbalance,” but if revenue from permit fees was one component of that effort, it’s not going to work with the increases proposed juxtaposed with the stated aim of the county.
Then, declare a permit amnesty period. It worked in the past and should be seriously considered again. Implement a “Homeowner Holiday.” This should be an amnesty period for work previously done without a permit -and- not charging for any and all penalties/late fees/etc. In addition, make the permit fees (building, plan check, plan review, etc.) a minimal charge. Then market the heck out of it!
The approach needs to incentivize residents. Thus inspectors should ask how they can HELP people, instead trying to FORCE people to comply. Make no mistake: The true scofflaws should be cited but get rid of the cop/enforcement attitude on the average resident. You want people to ask for help, not to avoid inspectors whom they feel are currently are just looking to raise revenue anyway.
If you’re not outraged – you’re not paying attention. Chat with your County Supervisor today about this matter as there’s no permit fee needed for that.