Newbie. I have questions. Permits, codes etc

Started by gypsyheart, March 18, 2006, 07:49:41 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


Hi. I am new here. I have many questions and not sure where to post them so I chose here.

We plan to buy land about 5 acres in NE Washington. Either Lincoln or Stevens county. What happens if you do not get building permits and you build a house?



Possibly, insecurity, problems insuring, threats, illegal hassles and violations of your rights.  You are the only one who can decide if you want to go to the trouble of going against the established system.  Moving to a location where there are no requirements is the best way to avoid problems.  Making a living there may be another problem.  Note that I have no problem with codes for the "take care of me generation."  They need someone to look after them and make sure that they are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous people  or contractors.

Penalties mentioned by the local permit agency here, originally stated on their web site included only the inference that you may not be able to get bank financing (possiblly true but many buyers who have sold land don't need financing) and you may not be able to sell your property (a lie, per the title company officer).

I can't say exactly - There is an out of print book called "The Owner Builder and The Code" by Ken Kern for those of us who still feel we have some personal privacy rights.  It more gives examples of what has happened or might happen than anything.

Here is other information - I take no responsibility for how you use any of this.  I just make it available for you to inform yourself and make your own decisions.

Mike Oehler noted that the first one to cause trouble for you would be the power company as they will open the door for the local inspection agencies.  He has a bit about problem avoidance in the Underground House book.  Another point he brought up is not offending others - neighbors etc. -out of sight - out of mind -- always be an extremely good neighbor etc.  In highly populated - public areas, there is probably not much chance you will be successful.

When you sign your permit you give permission for the inspector to come onto your land and you subjugate yourself to the local agency rules and regs.  Quotes Below

# Camara v. Municipal Court, 387 U.S. 523 (1967) — Building inspector must obtain warrant to inspect building if owner does not consent to it.
# Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21 (1991) — State officers may be held personally liable for damages based upon actions taken in their official capacities.
# Soldal v. Cook County, 506 U.S. 56 (1992) — State or local officials who stand by or protect an unlawful eviction or seizure are liable for damages under 42 USC 1983.


Glenn gives you a good overview of the legal and property rights aspects.

There is also a purely economic consideration. A home without a finalized permit on file may have problems at the time of sale with such things as title insurance, homeowner insurance and a mortgage application.

This is not to say that an owner-built non-code house won't sell, but that the pool of potential buyers will be restricted.

If you are planning to leave such a house to relatives (family compound?) then this may not be an important consideration.

At a minimum you should document the construction with photos to show future inspectors (not necessarily building inspectors but home inspectors hired by the buyer or insurance company) who won't know how the foundation was built or what is buried in the walls. A little effort here can have a big payback in the future.


Good idea, John.

Pictures, and drawings (I'm as bad as anyone about this and I've known it for years) will also keep you from cutting into a wire or a pipe hidden in a wall.  Not to mention the next owners.


With regard to building without a permit, does anyone actually know of a person living in a rural area (in the US) that built an "owner built" non permitted building on land they owned and had it torn down?

I can not even see how the official would get a warrant to come on your land and see what you are doing.

I am seriously considering not getting a permit to build. I do not plan on selling the house, or insuring it, or getting a mortgage. The house is going to be a place to live. Once I am dead or the house has outlived its usefulness, it can sink back into the land, or one of my children will get it.


I have heard of it happening only once, in rural Canada, and in that case the construction was so shoddy that the house was deemed to be unsafe. (It was either torn down to the first floor deck or the owner rebuilt the deck, and the owner continued to live in the basement).

More typically, the governing agency will register a notice against the title as a warning to future buyers.


Ken Kern mentioned in "The Owner Builder and The Code" - I think the title is right or very similar, a guy bought property -Marin Co. CA I think -- invited about 100 friends to build on it free -- the county dozed the friends buildings but left his since it was his personal residence.


Thanks for your replies. I have another question, but first let me say the codes really isn't my "beef". We plan to build our cabin properly. What my issue is is the extortion. Having to pay for inspectors and permits in order to build my own house on my own land. It is not a public building. It is just for me and my husband. Another issue is privacy. They don't need to come to my property. They do not need a record of the plans of my house. I want my privacy!

Question about foundations. We are planning a post and beam. Are there any other foundations that are cheaper and take less time?


Post and beam foundations are fine on sloping ground.  Although as far as I know insurance companies still hate them.  You will have steps up to the door (a covered porch, with a place to set the groceries while you fumble with the keys is a great idea!).  In termite country it might be a trick to be less than 18" (IIRC) above the highest ground.

Rubble trench foundation and footings can be much lower.  Although you may have two different materials making up your walls, again to keep termites away.

Frank Lloyd Wright used this foundation.  And they work, unlike his roofs.

"Floating slabs" are pretty simple as well.


I thought about floating slab as well. A builder friend of mine said it was "half ass".


A floating slab (a 4" slab insulated from and built inside a standard concrete structural stemwall foundation) is totally "full assed".  :)

About the only way this type of foundation can be screwed up is to:
• not build on a proper base (4" of crushed rock, Typ.)
• not insulate the edge properly (2" of blueboard for 24" at edge and under slab, Typ.)
• not put in a moisture barrier
• not get the plumbing right before the concrete sets. (This is true of all slab work).

All of the 20' wide house plans have full details for this foundation.


I have some misunderstanding on this topic, John.  Could you please provide details for a half-assed slab so I can completely understand the difference? :)


this picture reminds of my time when I was working on a merchant ship and we stopped once in Karachi, Pakistan. We were riding in a horse rikscha to the local seaman's club and the horse collapsed on a busy street crossing. But that is already long, long ago.  ;)




Ya they do that when ya don't feed um.   In Egypt they had those donkey carts as well , animals get treated different in other countries. Sort of like animals  :o


I have come to the conclusion that the platform or slab isn't so good. I was talking a wooden platform like they use for sheds.

I feel bad for the donkey. Poor thing.


Gypsyheart, one reason the inspectors want to visit your property and keep your plans on file is so you can be assessed on what you build now, and if the periodic aerial photographs taken later show any changes, you can be assessed and taxed on that, too. There are things to be said for having your vegetable garden on the roof!