Selling A House With Unpermitted Work in Nashville

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“Can I sell a house with unpermitted work?” This is a question that often plagues homeowners who have made upgrades to their homes without obtaining the necessary permits.

While renovating your home can increase its value, failing to get the required permits could impact its marketability and a potential buyer’s ability to secure financing for the purchase. It’s crucial to disclose any unpermitted work to buyers, regardless of whether it was done before you moved in or during your ownership.

Despite the risks associated with selling a house with unpermitted work, it’s a fairly common issue among homeowners. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to address this problem and minimize its impact on your home sale. Have a look!

What is Unpermitted Work?

Unpermitted works refer to any changes or improvements made to a property without the necessary permission from local building authorities. While these constructions are considered illegal, many property owners still choose to undertake them for various reasons.

Some may not want to deal with the hassle of obtaining permits, while others may be unaware of the legal requirements. Whatever the reason, it’s essential to understand the potential risks of having unpermitted works on your property.

What Are the Reasons for Unpermitted Works?

Unpermitted works are a common issue among homeowners, but what are the reasons behind them?

Let us know the most common explanations for unpermitted works on properties.

1. Lack of Knowledge

One of the most common reasons homeowners undertake unpermitted work is simply due to a lack of knowledge. Many homeowners are unaware of the legal requirements surrounding property modifications and may assume that small changes don’t require permits.

2. Avoiding Fees

Obtaining permits can be expensive, and some homeowners may opt to avoid paying these fees altogether. The cost of dealing with unpermitted works can often be much higher than the initial permit fees.

3. Time Constraints

Permit applications can be time-consuming, and some homeowners may not want to deal with the added hassle. They may choose to complete the work quickly without obtaining the necessary permits.

4. Desire to Avoid Inspections

Some homeowners may undertake unpermitted works to avoid inspections, which can be required for permitted construction. They may not want to deal with the additional scrutiny that comes with an inspection.

Regardless of the reason for unpermitted works, addressing them before selling a property is important to avoid legal issues and potential penalties.

How to Find Out if Your House Has Unpermitted Work?

If you’re unsure whether your home has unpermitted work, there are a few ways to investigate. Start by checking any documentation you have, such as building permits or renovation contracts. If you can’t find any information, you can also look for signs of unpermitted work, such as changes to the home’s structure or electrical and plumbing systems.

You may also want to consider hiring a professional home inspector or contractor to assess the property and identify any unpermitted work. Even if you didn’t perform the unpermitted work yourself, you’re still responsible for disclosing it to potential buyers when you sell the property.

What Happens When You Sell a House with Unpermitted Work?

Selling a house with unpermitted work can come with many risks for the seller.

Here are some of the most significant risks:

1. Legal Ramifications

Unpermitted work can have legal consequences that significantly impact the selling process. Local building codes require permits and inspections for most types of construction work.

If the work performed on the property does not meet these requirements, the seller may face fines, penalties, or legal action from the local government.

2. Buyer’s Inspection

When a buyer inspects a property, they typically look for any issues affecting its value or livability. If the buyer discovers unpermitted work, they may hesitate to move forward with the purchase or use it as leverage to negotiate a lower price.

Sometimes, a buyer may require the seller to correct the issue before proceeding with the sale, which can be time-consuming and expensive.

3. Insurance Coverage

Insurance companies may refuse to cover damage or injuries that result from unpermitted work.

If a buyer or resident of the property is injured due to unpermitted work, the seller may be liable for damages, resulting in significant financial loss.

Steps to Legalize Unpermitted Work

  1. Assess the unpermitted work: Hire a licensed contractor to assess the work needed to bring it up to code. The contractor can estimate the cost and the work that needs to be done.
  2. Research the necessary permits: Contact the local building department to determine what permits are necessary to bring the work up to code.
  3. Apply for retroactive permits: Apply for retroactive permits from the local building department. The application may require documentation of the work that was done, including photos, drawings, and descriptions.
  4. Schedule inspections: The local building department will ensure the work meets building code requirements.
  5. Make necessary repairs: If the work does not meet building code requirements, the licensed contractor must make any necessary repairs or modifications to bring it up to code.
  6. Obtain final approvals: Once all necessary repairs and modifications have been made, the local building department will issue final approvals and permits.

Can You Sell a House with Unpermitted Work in Nashville?

Selling a house with unpermitted work is possible, but it comes with its own set of challenges. As a seller, it’s important to understand the potential risks and downsides of having unpermitted work on your property.

Aside from the lower value of the unpermitted improvements, there’s also the risk of safety issues and insurance complications. Most buyers prefer homes that have been fully permitted and inspected, and they are willing to pay more for them.

What Are The Options to Sell a House with Unpermitted Work in Nashville?

Sellers with unpermitted work have several options to consider when selling their property. Here are some of the most common options:

1. Disclosure

One of the most critical steps for sellers with unpermitted work is to disclose it to potential buyers. It’s essential to be transparent about the extent and nature of the unpermitted work, and sellers should provide as much information as possible to potential buyers.

By being upfront about the unpermitted work, sellers can build trust with buyers and avoid potential legal issues.

2. Legalizing Unpermitted Work

Legalizing it before selling the property may be possible depending on the type and extent of unpermitted work. This involves obtaining the necessary permits and inspections from the local government to ensure the work meets building code requirements.

Legalizing unpermitted work can be lengthy and expensive, but it can help sellers avoid legal issues and potentially increase the property’s value.

3. Selling to Home-Buying Company

Home-buying companies specialize in buying properties as-is, including those with unpermitted work. These companies typically offer a quick and hassle-free selling process without needing repairs or renovations.

It’s important to note that home-buying companies typically offer less than the property’s market value, so sellers should be prepared to accept a lower price for their homes. Sellers should research and choose a reputable home-buying company to ensure they receive a fair and transparent offer.


4. Obtaining Retroactive

Obtaining retroactive permits involves applying for permits after the unpermitted work has already been completed. This process can help bring the property up to code and avoid potential legal issues when selling a property with unpermitted work.

To obtain retroactive permits, sellers should research the local building codes to determine the necessary permits and inspections for the specific type of unpermitted work. They should then hire a licensed contractor to assess the work and make necessary repairs or modifications to bring it to code.


Can you sue a previous owner for selling a house with unpermitted work?

Yes, it’s possible to sue a previous owner for selling a house with unpermitted work if they failed to disclose it before the sale. However, the success of the lawsuit depends on the specific circumstances of the case.

Is it illegal to sell a house with unpermitted work?

It’s not illegal to sell a house with unpermitted work, but failing to disclose the unpermitted work to potential buyers could lead to legal issues and affect the marketability of the property.

Final Thoughts

It may be challenging to sell a house that has unpermitted work, but there are options available to sellers. While unpermitted work may raise concerns for potential buyers and create legal implications, addressing the issue with transparency and due diligence is crucial.

Seeking professional guidance to rectify any unpermitted modifications and obtaining the necessary permits can instill confidence in buyers and streamline the sale.

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