The process of getting a permit for construction in the Bay Area can be onerous, lengthy, and seemingly expensive. Believe me: I know. Helping people get permits is part of what architects do. The degree of onerousness, how long it can take, and how expensive it will be will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, what takes 2 weeks in Alameda County can take 8 months in San Francisco.
It is worth it!
I currently have 5 projects in my office helping people who either did construction work without a permit, or purchased buildings which had been modified without getting permits. If you think getting a work for new construction is a pain in the tush, try getting a permit to legalize work done without a permit.
In San Francisco, if you are caught doing construction without a permit, not only do you get a stop work order, you are then required to get a permit. Doesn’t matter how long that process takes. There is no expedited process for scoff-laws. Not only do you have to pay for that permit, you are also then fined 9 times the cost of the permit. The penalties will be different in other jurisdictions.
You can’t resume working on your project again until your permit is approved AND you have passed all of the inspections that are required up to the point in the construction process when you were caught. That often means removing work that was completed in order to allow the inspections. And if the work doesn’t pass the inspection, you have to tear it out and do it over.
And that is YOUR cost. The contractor isn’t going to absorb the costs of the removal and reconstruction required by the City. It is expensive to redo work. It is expensive to pay for the extra work the contractor has to do. It is expensive to pay the fines.
All of this takes time. Time you are paying your loan without seeing any progress on your construction. Time you could be enjoying the finished project. Time you could be earning rental income. Time you could have already sold the property. Not to mention all the additional expenses.
Get a permit. It can be a frustrating process, but it is a walk in the park compared to getting caught having done work without a permit.
People are often in a tearing hurry to get started on their projects. They get upset when I tell them how long it takes to design and document a project. They get even more upset when they find out how long it takes to get a permit. The process can not be shortened. It takes as long as it takes. In a hot market like we have now, it takes even longer because jurisdictions are slammed with projects to review. But it is still better to go through the process before you start building. Because you will end up spending that time and more, and incurring the costs and more when you get caught trying to build without a permit.
Get a permit. Please.