Unpermitted Work in Tennessee
Tennessee is home to some of the hottest housing and job markets in the country. Nashville is flourishing and many of our new suburbs have planned developments with HOAs. HOAs or Homeowners’ Associations generally consist of a non profit or unincorporated association and will manage the common areas of a development including (but not limited too) paying taxes and assessments, contracting for insurance, and enforcing community rules with homeowners. They are regulated by state law. There are benefits and downsides to living in these communities. Homeowners love them because they maintain community standards and property values, but may feel restricted by the rules and regulations on their property. Regardless of whether you are purchasing a home in an HOA community or deciding to nest on acres of unrestricted land, getting a pool inspection is valuable prior to purchasing a home.
Unpermitted work in Tennessee. Purchasing a home with an accessory structure whether it’s a simple fence or swimming pool doesn’t guarantee that the work was permitted, nor that it’s up to code. The Nashville Flood of 2010 had devastating effects on homeowners throughout the Nashville Metro Area. After the clouds dissipated and the sun shined its light again, hundreds of predatory unlicensed contractors descended on the area to provide home restoration services. And in fact, the TN Contractors Board reviews hundreds of unlicensed contracting cases each year. But, unpermitted work isn’t limited to unlicensed contractors. Homeowners can also engage in unpermitted work. Both a licensed contractor or a homeowner are able to apply for a building permit that allows for construction or remodeling on a property. It’s possible the homeowner didn’t know their alterations would require a permit, however sometimes a homeowner skips the permit process to avoid additional fees and probable delays from inspections.
Why get a permit? A building permit is issued by a local government agency. When approval is granted, the governing agency is certifying that these plans adhere to local standards for construction, zoning, and land use. A permit may also require that a licensed professional is performing the work. For example, an electrical permit can only be obtained by a licensed electrician.
Other reasons include:
Ensuring the work performed is safe and up to code
A mortgage lender may require these documents for home improvement loans
Homeowners insurance coverage
Buyer beware. Purchasing a home with unpermitted work can have serious ramifications. An unpermitted accessory structure like a covered deck or a swimming pool can significantly lower the value of a home. A bank or other lender may even decline financing the sale. If a pool inspection is not performed, the new homeowner could be faced with heaping costs during the remodel including bringing the structure up to code. The buyer could experience difficulty insuring the unpermitted work, yet still assume liability. Lastly, damage can occur because the structure may not be built correctly.
Full disclosure. Sellers are required to provide a Tennessee Residential Property Condition Disclosure and share whether there have been changes since the most recent survey or whether structural modifications, alterations, or repairs were made without the necessary permits. The seller still has options to sell the home “as is” so long as full disclosure is made. If the seller fails to disclose their knowledge of unpermitted work Tennessee Code Title 66. Property § 66-5-208 states that the contract may be terminated prior to closing and the seller may be held liable for any damages resulting from the unpermitted work. The seller may also find that unpermitted work significantly depreciates the value of the property and/or the value of the unpermitted work can not be included in the home’s market value.
Protect yourself. You can protect yourself from unpermitted work in Tennessee. If you are a DIY homeowner managing your own project visit your local building and codes office online or in person and check to see if your project requires permits. Also, make sure you obtain proof of license and insurance from any trades involved in your project including electricians, plumbers, and masons. Take a moment to verify the license is active via the TN Department of Commerce & Insurance. If you are hiring a general contractor to manage the project take the same precautions and make sure that your agreement includes an active license number in the name of the business on the agreement. Read through the agreement thoroughly and acknowledge who is responsible for obtaining the proper permits and calling in inspections. Request a copy of the permit. As an extra precaution, hire a surveyor to complete a final as-built survey to verify that the completed structure satisfies the requirements of the local government.
Benefits of a pool inspection. A swimming pool is the second biggest investment a homeowner will make after their initial home purchase. If you are listing a home or purchasing a home, a thorough pool inspector will check the condition of the pool and make appropriate recommendations. A swimming pool inspection is usually conducted by a company specifically knowledgeable in swimming pools. Home inspectors generally focus on the interior of the home and may not be specifically knowledgeable on assessing the condition of a swimming pool or government codes relating to the pool industry. Tennessee Custom Pools has NSPF Certified Pool and Spa Inspectors. In addition to examining the pool and pool equipment, Tennessee Custom Pools verifies permits on accessory structures and makes additional recommendations based on exterior drainage. Some mortgage and lending companies consider and/or require a pool inspection report and subsequent recommendations in a home refinance or home improvement loan. The pool inspection report may be used to fix immediate issues and increase the resale value of the home. Subsequently, a buyer may request a pool inspection report as a contingency to the close of the property in a real estate transaction. They may factor the pool’s condition into real estate negotiations.
Field notes. We’ve encountered a number of interesting pools during our time in the field including poorly constructed gunite pools, hybrid pools (fiberglass + gunite), vinyl liner pools, and fiberglass pools. We believe the best solution to relieving buyers remorse and preventing lengthy disputes is to educate consumers on the best preventive measures. We encourage consumers to take precautionary measures such as using a “buyers agent” to navigate through a real estate transaction; requesting surveys and permits related to the property prior to purchase; completing a swimming pool inspection; and verifying licensing information even when using trusted sites like Houzz, HomeAdvisor, Tackl, and Better Business Bureau. Unpermitted work isn’t the end of the world. Reach out to your local building and codes office for more information on obtaining retroactive permits.
Tennessee Custom Pools specializes in the design, build, and remodel of gunite swimming pools, outdoor living spaces, and landscaping. TN License #74434 If you have questions about our NSPF Certified Pool and Spa Inspections feel free to reach out at 615.987.0077 Our goal is for you to feel confident and happy with your home purchase.