Charles’ Real Estate Platform Part 4 (City Permits)

Charles, what is your platform regarding permits and the buyer’s agent’s responsibility. We discussed this before though I cannot find your response though I do see that you commented on it a couple of years ago on your blog (the early days) and said that the seller must disclose work and that it’s the buyers responsibility to locate the permits. www.portlandrealestateblog.com/ realestate/2005/06/buyer_due_dilig.html Why do I bring this up again? A coworker is looking to buy, found a house with extensive remodelling, an addition and no permits on PortlandMaps.com. When she asked her realtor about the consequences of buying this property the realtor basically shrugged her shoulders and didn’t say much. Now my coworker is seeking outside help. What is the realtor’s role/expectation in these no-permit situations. My coworker did the footwork herself via Portlandmaps but where does the real estate expert take responsibility and assist with the process?


My opinion is: if it needs a permit, get a permit. Do you need a permit or contractor’s license? That parts pretty easy. The question is what to do if a permit wasn’t acquired. Defining actual “responsibility” might infer giving legal advice so I’ll stay away from that by answering what I do personally. I start by looking at Portlandmaps and recommending that the client does that as well.

Portlandmaps online data seems accurate back to about 2000. Prior to that, you may have to schlep yourself down to the Bureau of Development Services at 1900 SW 4th (note the doors close at 3PM sharp except on Permit Night). Last week, I got to sit down at the microfiche machine to look for permits for a property that we were selling (now closed) since part of the repair addendum included proof of final permits. Ultimately if you can’t put your hands on something written the client needs to be advised that “this is what I found but you need to verify it directly.”

If we establish that permits were not acquired for work that required we’d have a conversation about what to do next. Is it a big deal? Yes but how big depends on a lot of factors. If your planning on remodeling anyways, wrapping it into a new permit may not be a big deal. Can the work be brought up to code so that it would pass an inspection? Is there a liability issue because the work is substandard? Is there going to be an additional cost to bring it to permittable status? Will the City of Portland’s Get Legal Program work (I still don’t know of anyone that has used it)? In some cases, the answer is going to be “run away.” A contractor may look at the same property and drool knowing that there is a discount to be had on something they can fix.

Also, take a look at the Oregon Property Buyer’s Advisory. Hopefully no Realtor is ever going to dissuade a buyer from having an inspection or discount the results if they may kill the deal. If you tell me you don’t want to have a sewer scope I’m going to make sure that it is reiterated in writing that I think it is a really bad idea. Sewer problems exist in many forms all over the City of Portland. Just because I’ve never seen a house fail a radon test doesn’t mean it couldn’t. I just had to take our 2006 hybrid to DEQ for new registration. “Have you ever seen a hybrid fail?” “No, but it could.”

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