Don't Let This Happen To You!

You spent two or three months trying to sell your home: Open House, Pictures, Brochures, Areal Photography, Advertising, etc. And, don't forget, showing your home to more than 15 prospective buyers and their agents. Then, you got an offer and struck a deal. You worked out the details. And finally, you're under contract. Now, after almost a month of inspections, appraisals, mortgage underwriting, etc., you hear that fateful question from the Buyer: Are there any open permits? "Oh, yes there are" you say. "Well, we'll continue working toward closing," they say, "but the lender will not fund unless you close all the open permits. Does that present a problem?" you're asked. "Because if so, I want my deposit back."

If you've experienced a scenario like that, you probably own, or know someone who owns, property located in South Florida. According to our research, there are presently in excess of 200,000 code violations, including expired open building permits, still in the system in South Florida. An unofficial survey shows that one out of every ten homes in some parts of South Florida still have open building permits. Additionally, some have hurricane repairs and/or additions which, to this day, haven't been permitted.

WHY CAN'T THE BUILDING DEPARTMENT JUST CLOSE THE PERMITS?

For what to some people are obvious reasons, building departments cannot simply close the thousands of remaining open permits. The liability to the jurisdiction could be in the billions of dollars. For example, what would you do if the home you bought in 1995, and presently live in, had truss damage and lost its roof during an earlier storm? And, what was still an open permit before you purchased the house in 1995, because there was no inspection, was quickly closed administratively and no longer showed up as an open permit. Yet, there still had not been inspections to verify that the roof trusses and tile placement met the requirements of the SFBC (South Florida Building Code). Well, so far, so good. However, in just a few months the hurricane season starts again and this time we get hit with a smaller, but nonetheless, windy storm. Again, there is truss damage and again your tile roof blows off.

Then, during a damage appraisal by the insurance company, it is realized that the trusses were not properly braced and/or the tile was not properly secured. And, to top it all off, the contractor and roofer are no longer in business. Who might you look to for relief? The county implied the work was done to code by virtue of the fact that the permit was (administratively) closed. Yet, the work was not to code. Might you want to sue the county for closing those permits? I think you would. And, so do they. Thus, we face the problem of having to close permits by first assuring the building department that the work performed as many as 12, 14 or maybe 20 years ago was done to code. This is not an easy task and, as mentioned above, certainly not one which most homeowners should take on as they would a weekend do-it-yourself project. Even a Realtor, with a network of contractors, would be foolish to take on a project like this. It is very demanding and, without the expertise required, one could get involved in something he'll regret for a long time.  

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