Do I need a permit in Portland?

Oregon property disclosures ask a series of questions about the past remodeling of a property:

1) Are there any additions, conversions or remodeling?
2) If yes, was a building permit required?
3) If yes, was a building permit obtained?
4) If yes, was a final inspection obtained?

If you answer “yes” to a question, you hopefully can answer yes to the question that follows. “Unknown” is an allowed answer to each question but when push comes to shove (in court) I doubt that ignorance is going to be bliss.

You can answer question number two by looking it up on line on the city’s website, the Bureau of Development Services published this list of what does or doesn’t require a permit (again, if you aren’t sure, consult them). You’ll find that there isn’t much you can do, even as a homeowner, that isn’t cosmetic without a permit. A homeowner can do their own wiring, own pluming and own mechanical work but none of it can be done without a permit. That includes replacing existing plumbing fixtures (dishwasher, toilet, sink).

As discussed before in previous posts, Portlandmaps.com is your one stop source for most recent permits. You can see if the permit was issued and whether it was finalized (as can any potenital buyer).

The City also runs the Get Legal Program which may be able to help legalize unpermitted work:

The Get Legal Program was “suspended indefinitely” September 1, 2009.

The Get Legal Program is not intended to replace the bureau’s existing process for permitting and legalizing work, and is not a fast-track program. The program is intended to provide an avenue for customers who have a complex situation and need specialized assistance with legalizing work on their property.

As Realtors, we check out PortlandMaps (you can also check right off the BDS website) for permits. The records go back to about 2001. If we think that a seller has done work that required permits, we advise them that they need to be clear on the disclosures and that it might come back to haunt them if a buyer asks for repairs. As buyer’s agents (remember that we are never the dual agent) we advise the client that some work may have been done without permits and that they will be inheriting any problem in the future by accepting the condition now.

3 Comments on “Do I need a permit in Portland?

  1. Can’t be that great of a site if it won’t give information for a property up the street from me (doesn’t recognize the address number, although it recognizes the house next door). Odd!

  2. Also, a good building inspection for buyers is essential for the reasons that you have given. It is beyond stupid to waive a building inspection here.

  3. Can’t get Portlandmaps to find your neighbor? It happens sometimes because properties have conflicting addresses in some records. We used to live at 9608 but some of the permits were pulled under 1906 (PGE said we didn’t exist). Often you can use the explorer map to navigate to the house in question.

    Absolutely, the average consumer that is not a contractor needs to have an inspection.

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