Is There A Permit For That Finished Basement?

Did the Owner Get a Permit for the Finished Basement?

The basement in the home I showed was everything the buyer wanted PLUS it had a beautiful full bath.  What a great place for the buyer’s teenage kids to hang out!

Since the basement finishing looked relatively new and the house was 40 years old, I could safely assume it was not finished to this level when the original owners purchased the home.

I asked the listing agent on behalf of my buyer if the basement had a certificate of occupancy (CO).

The answer?  Not what I wanted to hear.

NO permits were pulled to finish the basement. The basement had heat, AC and the full bath, so there was considerable concern.

The seller had some work to do.  If it wasn’t my buyer purchasing this home, someone else was going to question this and the same issue would surface.

The town building and engineering departments were called in to inspect the property and found some of the construction was not to code.  The seller had to make all the corrections which involved calling in a contractor, electrician and plumber.   He did what he had to do to pass inspection and be issued the certificate of occupancy, but not without a lot of time and expense.

When I list a property, I always ask the sellers about any improvements made and if permits were pulled.  I verify by making a trip to the town hall to check the assessor and building department records. If there are 3 bathrooms in the house, there must be 3 bathrooms on the assessor’s record. A buyer’s agent should not be the first person to inquire if any work was done in the house where permits were required.  The house must match the town assessor records.  If not, the big red flag goes up.

Sometimes everything seems to be in order, but maybe a permit was not closed or the certificate of occupancy was simply not signed off. Things do slip through the cracks.  Most homeowners hire licensed contractors to do home improvements, and sometimes the contractor just does not get the permits closed out and CO issued.

Permits and COs should be verified prior to listing and all should be in order when the property is listed.


I can guarantee if it’s not the buyer’s agent who uncovers permit-less work, it will be the bank appraiser backed up by the attorney’s search.   It can cause delays AND can sink a transaction.