Gov't Affairs, Govt - County Larimer, Govt Loveland

City Tightens Policy on Unpermitted Residential Construction

Loveland’s policy concerning illegal or unpermitted home renovations has become more restrictive, thanks to an interpretation by City Attorney John Duval. Tom Hawkinson, Chief Building Official for the City, said it was Duval who advised the Building Division to adopt a stricter policy in the wake of a well-publicized lawsuit in Pitkin County concerning carbon monoxide alarms.

In that particular case, the tragic deaths of a family of four by carbon monoxide poisoning led to a lawsuit against the building official who has inspected the home as well as the company that installed the alarms. Duval told Hawkinson that to avoid liability, Loveland should take a stricter, more uniform approach in making decisions concerning renovations done without permits.

This change in policy is creating problems for real estate transactions involving unpermitted work. If confirmation is required by a buyer, a lending institution or an insurance company, that construction was done in compliance with the building code, it can lead to the necessity of an inspection by a City building official. If the inspector finds violations, correcting the problems can bevery expensive depending on the type of work that was done. Hawkinson said projects that include any electrical, plumbing, foundation or load bearing walls raise safety issues, requiring the removal of drywall to for inspection.

Other local jurisdictions take different approaches to the situation. Chief Building Official Chris Allison of Longmont said that a letter from a licensed contractor and a final inspection is generally adequate to legalize unpermitted construction. He said he couldn’t remember any situations in which sheetrock had to be removed. In Greeley Chief Building Official Tim Swanson also said as long as the work was done by a licensed contractor and passes an inspection, the permit is issued although Greeley does double the charge of the permit fees in these cases. Larimer County has a policy for “as-built” work to allow homeowners to obtain permits after work is completed. Licensed contractors must review the work after which the County issues an as-built certificate. Candice Phippen, the County’s Building Code and Compliance Supervisor said she hasn’t heard of cases in which the as-built certificate wasn’t satisfactory in these circumstances.

Note: This issue will be the main topic at the Loveland-Berthoud Association of Realtors® monthly membership meeting on Feb. 9. A representative from the City of Loveland’s Building Inspection Division will discuss the issue and answer questions.

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