Foreword: If you are a building inspector / official, please try to understand that this rant is from a contractor’s point of view… Or at least try to be objective and unbiased.
Pros and cons of building permits:
Why do we need building inspectors (and do we really need them)? Well, they are supposed to inspect – right? They are there to protect homeowners from shady contractors, and ensure that construction goes in accordance with state / national building codes. That’s why we also have specialty trade inspectors (electrical, plumbing, mechanical, etc). But do they really do their job? Another question – why do we need building permits? Yes, to pay the building inspector for doing his/her job of doing the inspections. Yea, right!
I will purposely omit building inspectors in charge of large construction projects, such as bridges, sky-scrapers, factories, etc. There is a lot more responsibility there, and these inspectors are a lot more knowledgeable than your average “Joe, the building inspector”.
In my time being a roofing contractor, I had to pull many permits in the last 10 years – for almost every job we did. In all this time, only once have I seen a building inspector at a job site, and he was there to harass the home-owner about the “illegal kitchen” that came with the house they just purchased. In the beginning of my career as a contractor, I needed to get permits, but did not have sufficient / adequate insurance and in some cases did not have the Home Improvement Contractor registration in a state where I was doing work. Luckily for me, I was able to get permits, and because I have dignity (I’d like to think so) I did decent work without code violations and nothing bad ever happened. I once had a “stop job” order posted at a job site, where we forgot to pull a permit. Ahh… the good old days.
When you get into serious contracting like Metal Roofing and IB Roof installations, you can’t afford not to have proper insurances and licenses. Your clients by default expect everything to be current and you to be fully insured – both worker’s comp and general liability. And besides, it is easier to show proof of insurance than to explain why you do not have it, or better yet to ask a home owner to pull “an owners permit”. It is also much easier to get a permit in 5 minutes instead of waiting 3 days and hoping that the inspector is not a complete a$$ or is looking for a bribe – for some reason, I have a very strong suspicion that some building inspectors in Lynn, Revere, Malden and other surrounding towns in Massachusetts, purposely jerk contractors around, as if telling them – “give me $300 and you will have your permit”. I really believe so. Or they just hate people in general. But let me get back to building inspectors. Continue reading