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Old 01-24-2008, 11:48 AM
 
7 posts, read 32,768 times
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Default Finished basement in a private house...is it legal?

Hi folks,
I live in Middlesex county, New Jersey and purchased a house two years ago. There are four houses side by side, they are exactly same. Recently I was finishing up my basement with the help of two friends and I did not get any permit from the city. I made two rooms, a full kitchen and a full bath. I got a paycut at my work and facing a lot of hardship to pay my mortgage. I was planning to move down in my basement and save the house. Three days ago I got a letter from the city saying I am being fined for illegal construction in the basement. They scheduled an inspector to come and inspect the house next week. I don't know what to say or what to do...or even my rights. The owners of the other three houses have the basement finished and two of them are even renting. Should I mention them to the inspector?
Can anyone please help with some advise!!!
Thanks in advance for being so kind to help me out.
AR
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Old 01-24-2008, 11:55 AM
 
Location: High Bridge
2,738 posts, read 6,095,195 times
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The issue isn't that you have a finished basement, its that you didn't get the required permits. So if their work was inspected, its ok. Your basement updates are illegal because there was no inspection to ensure compliance with code, end of story.

I'm also not for calling anyone out like that - its their problem imho if they end up getting found out for work without permits, but I don't like the idea of causing problems for someone else like that.
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Old 01-24-2008, 11:59 AM
 
Location: Martinsville, NJ
5,847 posts, read 6,313,422 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arahman72 View Post
Hi folks,
I live in Middlesex county, New Jersey and purchased a house two years ago. There are four houses side by side, they are exactly same. Recently I was finishing up my basement with the help of two friends and I did not get any permit from the city. I made two rooms, a full kitchen and a full bath. I got a paycut at my work and facing a lot of hardship to pay my mortgage. I was planning to move down at my basement and save the house. Three days ago I got a letter from the city saying I am being fined for illegal construction in the basement. They scheduled an inspector to come and inspect the house next week. I don't know what to say or what to do...or even my rights.
Can anyone please help with some advise!!!
Thanks in advance for being so kind to help me out.
AR
In most municipalities in NJ, you MUST get a permit for any construction or renovation, ESPECIALLY if it involves structural changes, electrical or plumbing work. As a rule (and I don't know every town in Middlesex county, so you have to look into the details locally) the fine will not be ridiculous. Most towns are more interested in making sure that everything is done safely & to current applicable code. You will probably have to pay for the permits now, if you want to keep the finished product. Also, since you say you were planning on moving into the basement to save the house, is sounds like you are planning on maybe renting out the main part of the house. That's another no no, unless your house is zoned as a 2-family house. Check with the township zoning office to see if that's even a possibility.
Just out of curiosity, how'd the city learn about the construction?
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Old 01-24-2008, 12:04 PM
 
Location: High Bridge
2,738 posts, read 6,095,195 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Keegan View Post
That's another no no, unless your house is zoned as a 2-family house. Check with the township zoning office to see if that's even a possibility.
Another possibility - it can be rented out as a shared (ie: roommates), though some townships have limits on the number of roommates before it becomes a "boarding house".

So you'll have to find out the township's code to know for sure either way.
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Old 01-24-2008, 01:30 PM
 
Location: Central Jersey
1,723 posts, read 1,964,654 times
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Not sure about Middlesex but in my township you must have the home designated as a legal 2-home to rent it out...must have separate sewer/water/electrical hookups.

I think they're just trying to get a few bucks for the permits, some of which are pricey. In Hamilton you need to have insulation inspected, give me a break!
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Old 01-24-2008, 01:32 PM
 
Location: Atlantic Highlands NJ/Ponte Vedra FL/NYC
2,689 posts, read 30,941 times
Reputation: 328
Quote:
Originally Posted by arahman72 View Post
Hi folks,
I live in Middlesex county, New Jersey and purchased a house two years ago. There are four houses side by side, they are exactly same. Recently I was finishing up my basement with the help of two friends and I did not get any permit from the city. I made two rooms, a full kitchen and a full bath. I got a paycut at my work and facing a lot of hardship to pay my mortgage. I was planning to move down in my basement and save the house. Three days ago I got a letter from the city saying I am being fined for illegal construction in the basement. They scheduled an inspector to come and inspect the house next week. I don't know what to say or what to do...or even my rights. The owners of the other three houses have the basement finished and two of them are even renting. Should I mention them to the inspector?
Can anyone please help with some advise!!!
Thanks in advance for being so kind to help me out.
AR
you have no legs to stand on for what you've done regardless of anything done by your neighbors.
All of you must be from NY where crap like this is commonplace. It is illegal on many levels the least of which is not having the proper permits. In addition you are trying to add an illegal apt which the town more than likely not allow, good luck because you're in it real deep
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Old 01-24-2008, 01:36 PM
 
Location: Central Jersey
1,723 posts, read 1,964,654 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by apvbguy View Post
you have no legs to stand on for what you've done regardless of anything done by your neighbors.
All of you must be from NY where crap like this is commonplace. It is illegal on many levels the least of which is not having the proper permits. In addition you are trying to add an illegal apt which the town more than likely not allow, good luck because you're in it real deep
True...that's like ratting out your friends when you get busted...it doesn't mean that what you did wasn't wrong.

arahman...where are you from that doesn't require any sort of permit to do this?
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Old 01-24-2008, 02:01 PM
 
Location: Houston, Texas
10,428 posts, read 27,687,716 times
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My first problem is who was peaking in your windows to see what you were doing? Big brother looking out for us again or a nosy neighbor?

Either way, what everyone already said is correct. I lived in Middlesex Cty for more then 20 years. I finished my own basement with no permit. That in itself is not a big deal but when you added plumbing, electrical etc then you should have gotten permits. Big brother says the permits are to insure work is done safely but the truth is permits are used so the city can say your home is worth more so they can tax you more.

At this point what will happen is they will come to inspect your basement. If you do not let them then they can and will get a warrent to do so. They will simply give you a red sticker that says you failed inspection. (because they can not see the work performed) You will be required to remove any wall covering (drywall or paneling) that covers electical or plumbing so they can inspect it. If it is not up to code, which I doubt it is, they will make you make it up to code. They will reinspect it when you tell them it is complete. When and only when it conforms to code they will give you a green sticker which gives you the go ahead to cover the walls back up. Then you will need yet another final inspection for yet another green sticker. Some one mentioned insulation. That may or may not be yet another thing required of you. Most towns today do require insulation. Each and every process is yet another inspection.

As far as fines, there are none. Just the cost of conforming to code. But keep in mind one more thing. Code Enforcement or Building Inspectors whatever they want to be called these days were never known to be nice people. I can promise you this: They will treat you very badly and with no respect at all for what you did. They consider it a threat against their cushy jobs which it is not. They will not just give your updated work a once over. They will spend the time it takes to fail you as many times as they feel like it. In other words they will look until they find something wrong just to spite you. You will have to swallow any abuse they give you or keep on failing inspections.

The days of payoffs are long gone so dont even think of it. In the old days what we would do is place a $50 on the floor next to what is being inspected. He would pick it up and not a word was spoken about it but you got your green sticker. Im telling you not to even think about doing this. These Building Inspectors are paid a lot of money these days not to be swayed by a $50. They would get more brownie points for turning you in for bribery then that $50 is worth.

Long winded but hope that helps. You are not in any trouble with the law unless you make trouble. No fines unless it is unique to your area.

I would like to see you walk into city hall and go to the building dept. Tell them you did work without a permit and want to know what to do next. That will show them a lot and will go a long way in you getting out of this as less costly as possible. Listen to what they tell you to do. You will be tearing out your walls like I described above but by asking will show your willingness to conform to the government controls placed on us.

Good luck
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Old 01-24-2008, 02:24 PM
 
Location: Vermont
4,552 posts, read 8,307,976 times
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Desert sun I have issues with this too.

I do know that you need to get a permit for just about everything... it is ridiculous.


But, I believe there is some level of safety involved here.

Not for you, but for future buyers who couldn't see what is going on behind your walls (like in my own house!).

I don't believe it's the government's place to protect you from yourself, but they should protect others from you. Maybe there is even some idea to protect the bank here, because it is after all THEIR house, in many cases.

I think there is also some level of let's raise your taxes going on. Charge you to tell them what you are doing to your house and when you're done we can see how nice it is and raise your taxes.

Before I purchased our house I went to the permits office and I didn't find any permits on file yet we have central air and heat and a new water heater. There is an inspection sticker on the furnace. How did that happen?

When "a friend of mine" moved in, he got Verizon FiOS which required power right next to the phone line. He had a licensed electrician come in and add an outlet added literally 3 inches from the breaker box which is also where the FiOS comes in. He had no clue that he had to get a permit for this... so what to do after the fact?

My question is about renting out your house and live in the basement.

What differentiates between a house share and a 2 family house.

There was an article recently about a woman who moved in with her own elderly mother and made a separate entrance in the garage to the basement apartment and they made her board up the door because it "deemed" the house a 2 family! Taking care of her own sick mother!

Last edited by joe moving; 01-24-2008 at 02:32 PM..
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Old 01-24-2008, 02:48 PM
 
Location: Houston, Texas
10,428 posts, read 27,687,716 times
Reputation: 9518
Quote:
Originally Posted by joe moving View Post
Desert sun I have issues with this too.

I do know that you need to get a permit for just about everything... it is ridiculous.


But, I believe there is some level of safety involved here.

Not for you, but for future buyers who couldn't see what is going on behind your walls (like in my own house!).

I don't believe it's the government's place to protect you from yourself, but they should protect others from you. Maybe there is even some idea to protect the bank here, because it is after all THEIR house, in many cases.

I think there is also some level of let's raise your taxes going on. Charge you to tell them what you are doing to your house and when you're done we can see how nice it is and raise your taxes.

Before I purchased our house I went to the permits office and I didn't find any permits on file yet we have central air and heat and a new water heater. There is an inspection sticker on the furnace. How did that happen?

When "a friend of mine" moved in, he got Verizon FiOS which required power right next to the phone line. He had a licensed electrician come in and add an outlet added literally 3 inches from the breaker box which is also where the FiOS comes in. He had no clue that he had to get a permit for this... so what to do after the fact?

My question is about renting out your house and live in the basement.

What differentiates between a house share and a 2 family house.

There was an article recently about a woman who moved in with her own elderly mother and made a separate entrance in the garage to the basement apartment and they made her board up the door because it "deemed" the house a 2 family! Taking care of her own sick mother!
All good points. What you were hearing from me though was my hatred for authority and big brother telling us what to do with our own properties.

So minus that, you are right that codes are to protect us from preventable accidents. On the other hand, if they can tell me how to wire an outlet for safety sake then why do they not tell smokers that they can not smoke in their homes? Smoking is far more dangerous to everyones health then some poor man finishing walls in his basement.

Soooooo whats the answer. Even more regulation I guess.
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