Building structures that require permits w/o a permit

Hypothethical question here.

I want to build a hot tub. I know that I need to pull permits, and to get the permits I need to have an engineer draw plans.

If I just build it myself, and a building inspector sees this, he’ll likely tell me to tear it down, right? I mean, he can’t possibly know how well structured/designed it was, so he has to assume the worst.

What if I built a hot tub, but took photos of the build the entire time. Then, when an inspector sees it, and says ‘I have no way of telling how well that thing is structurally reinforced’ or whatever, I can just show him very detailed, thorough pictures of teh build, so he can see the concrete footing for it, the rebar, the positioning / types of pumps, etc.

What would this situation result in? Would he look at my pics and be able to see that it did meet building code, and allow it? Or at least just fine me, but let me keep it up? Or would he tell me to demolish it, and to pull permits, and to have his inspectors out there several times during construction to verify that I’m doing a proper install.

btw, this isn’t just in relation to a jacuzzi, but most things. Like a masonry ‘fence’ / wall around my property. I know that I can’t just build that w/o a permit, and I need an engineer’s plans to get the permit. But if I built it myself, and my finished product was structurally sound (as evidenced by my pictures), would that help me at all? Or would it be such a gamble as to whether or not they’d make me rip it up that it’s not worth even trying?

Too much of a gamble. If permits are required for something - get the permits. Too many legal ramifications in the long run to ignore the process in the short run.


I am not for sure about your city, because different ciities use different standards of codes, but when you go to the city to apply for a permit they will want to see a diagram of the proposed project.

Lets say your hot tub for instance. You can draw up a plan showing detail hieght width and location relative to the house. At that time the plan will be looked at by a plans eximaner to make sure that your plan is in relative decent shape and he/she may put requirements on your plan that you may have not brought up. Ask them for reqiurements that you may not be aware of. You may not need a footer for your hot tub.

Once the city approves your plan they will issue permits to you since you will be doing the work. You will need to have a footing inspection which means that you dig the footing install the rebar but DO NOT pour the concrete till you call the city for an inspection. The inspector will come out to the job site inspect your footing and either give you a pass or fail. If you pass pour your concrete if he/she fails your work the inspector will tell you what you need to do to correct the problem.

The same thing with your electrical and plumbing( if you need plumbing) will be required. But when you pull a permit you may be able to do alot of the work but when it comes to electrical, plumbing and HVAC you usually have to have a licensed contractor to do the work and they pull permits under your main permit. When the job is complete and you have your hot tub rolling with water call for a final inspection.

There will always be at least 2 inspections for every step of the process

  1. Rough Inspection
  2. Final inspection
    That means you will be seeing the inspector a few times.

When dealing with an inspector they can make or break your project.

If they feel like you are trying to shortcut things they will make life very hard for your project. Always be nice to them and ask for advice most of them are great people and willing to help out.

I hope this helps.


speaking from my own experience, I am currently working on 11 rehabs and have completed many more, I havent pulled any permits, except for one, and it was a deck, I had to pay a 65 fee and make sure that I pulled a permit and had it inspected.

I had the same thing happen with a deck on my own house twice. They never made me tear it down, they made me pay a fee for no permit, then I had to make the deck up to current code. they dont ask for it to be torn down.

To me, it’s an insurance and legal issue, beyond playing “cat and mouse games” with inspectors. In other words, you get caught, maybe you’ll be lucky just to pay a fine.

I know people do rehabs with no pemits day in and day out here. Frequently I would hear of a deck collapsing because 10 people happen to be dancing on it, or a ceiling collapsed with a structural wall was taken down, done with no permits. The first thing that’s being checked with these tragedies is “was a permit issued??”.

If the answer is YES, then hopefully insurance will pay for damages. If not, if there’s death an injuries, count on insurance companies denying claims, and manslaughter charges if any deaths.

It’s like what my CPA tells me whether I’ll get caught cheating on taxes. “I know some people born under lucky stars cheating years and years and never got caught. I know others that cheated once for a few dollars and got caught immediately”.

I carpooled with a guy that stops at red lights and then drive thru them saying he’s done it for years and claimes never got caught. All he needs is kill someone doing it once, and he’s in big trouble.

Then there’s nosy neighbors that don’t like you for some reason. I moved into the neighborhood 14 years ago and since learned that neighbors across the street didn’t want the buildings going up to begin with, and constantly call inspectors to make trouble.

Half a dozen years ago, I got a licensed contractor to build a cement patio in the back yard, a simple enought job that needs no permit. Inspectors came calling. He saw my guy and said "Oh, it’s you, and then talked about old times. Turned out the people across the street complained.

It helped that my contractor, who since retired, had been around the block a few times, knew most of the inspectors. I also use a plumber that pull permits on lots of stuff he does, and chat with inspectors like old friends when they come calling. On one job, got signed off for removal of an illegal gas pipe before he got to it, the inspector didn’t want to make another trip, and after the inspector left, asked him just to leave the pipe alone whcih he did.

Another landlord I know was not as lucky. Started a major repair job with no permit, neighbors complained, inspectors came, a “stop work” order issued. Then to get a licensed guy, with permits, its cost him twice as much, and he had no choice at this point as the the unlicensed guy already took the brickwork apart. And the brickwork was open to the elements all winter!!

Told me had he known, and how much it’ll cost him, wouldn’t have started work on it.

 Once again, this is locally controlled.  If you live in an incorporated city, go to the city.  If you live in an unincorporated area of the county, go to the county.
 I believe that you are wrong.  Just because you want a permit, does not mean that you need to hire an engineer, especially for the projects that you are describing.  Often times, you can just fill out an application for a building permit, with a brief description of what you want to do, sometimes with a couple of drawings that you can draw yourself.  The county or city will tell you at what point you need to call for an inspection, (eg. dig the trenches, fit the rough plumbing and electrical, then get an inspection.)
 Usually the cost of permits and inspections is a percentage of the job, like 2-3% (so $200 for a $10,000 project) and if you are the homeowner, it costs even less.  They only charge for reinspection if you don't do what they ask.
Many times, you can buy preapproved plans online or in magazines and they'll have several designs to choose from.
 I knew a guy who wanted to put a door off of his second story master bedroom, and build a deck.  He went without permits or plans, his neighbor reported him to the city.  The city fined him $1,500.  The permit would have cost $300.

It’s a money maker for the city. I got a permit for my garage, but that’s because I had someone else pour the slab and they wouldn’t do it without a permit ($330).
I did not get permits for replumbing my house, moving gas lines, installing a basement egress, and finishing my basement. I’ve done it all before. I know what I’m doing and trust my work. Uncle Sam has bigger things to worry about.

In the cities and towns around the NYC area, they’ll love guys like you with the fines and accessments they can hit you with when you sell, or if you have a spat with a neighbor, and he squeals on you.

Got a friend of mine living out in Long Island, had the town came by paying him a visit. He apparently cut an opening below the window to put in an AC because his wife wanted to be able to open the windows. Too bad, he’s suppose to get a permit, because how else the town would know to increase the assessment?? Yeh, my friends reaction was “increased assessment for this”?? The inspector said “you improved the house, didn’t you”??

Checking him out??

It appears to the town feels he’s one of those guys that knows what he’s doing, and if you do one thing without a permit, God know what other stuff you did without permits, such as new gas lines, replumbing, cheating the town from more taxes.

No one complained in this case, the town got people driving around looking for improvements.

And it’s been reported that most people are not even aware they’re supposed to get a permit to put up a deck, and people living in their houses for thirty years, with decks holding up that long, presumably the guy putting it up knew what he was doing, had to get permits, pay fines, or take the deck down, and pay back taxes on asssessements they cheated on, before they can even sell the house.

Towns around here look at “knowing what you’re doing” this way. It’s got nothing to do with the deck holding up, it’s got to do with you KNOWING you got away from increased assessments.

And they’ll lick their chops on an “added egress”, and a “finished basement” here. How much in additonal living space “not assessed”??

I got cited for an added bathtub, and kitchen in the basement not in the original floor plans, and the violation required me to pay fines for not filing original permits, and filing and paying for permits to take the stuff out, and paying for inspections to certify the stuff was taken out. I was not the violator, I bought an REO as is, and it was all there when I bought the place.