Ask The Consumerists: A House Divided Forgot Its Permits

Jeffrey and his wife found their dream house. Except they failed to realize the difficulty that one tiny problem with the house might give them. The difficulty? Well, the previous owners doubled the size of the house. Only they sort of forgot to get permits for any of the additions or renovations.

Now Jeffrey wants to know….what on earth do they do now?

My wife and I just entered contract on our first home today in Atlanta, GA. The house is a 1920′s cottage which was updated, renovated, and had additions in 2007. Unfortunately, the additions included about half of the square footage and the owners decided to skip that whole permitting process thing. They listed this in the disclosure, but between my wife’s excitement and my lack of sleep (we submitted the offer at midnight last night) we failed to comprehend what kind of issue this could pose. Now we find ourselves in a situation where we’ve found our dream house, but our worst fear is that half of it may have to be torn up for inspection or, even worse, removed entirely were the city ever to come knocking and we’re in possession.

I need your help. I’m not at all familiar with situations like this and even less familiar with something like this in Atlanta. How big of a deal is this? Does the city just want their piece of the pie and we’ll have to pay up at some point? How much would after the fact permitting be with any penalties that might arise? I would love best case and worst case scenario as well as what you think is most likely and our best option.

We are currently in a 14-day due diligence period and can back out without penalty up until July 29. Thanks in advance for any advice you or the commenters can offer.

Any ideas, homeowning Consumerists?

(Photo: Rob Nunn)