Do I Need a Permit to Tear Down a House?


If you’re considering a demolition, there’s a lot you need to know. Although tearing down a house may seem simple enough, there are regulations that need to be followed for everyone’s safety. It’s not as easy as simply breaking down walls and pulling up piping: there are different inspections that must be completed and documents that need to be accounted for when completing a demolition project. Whether you are tearing down a small house or a large mansion, here’s what you need to know.

Expect Inspections

Before we get any further, first determine if your project is in fact a demolition. If you are not removing all of the walls built above a foundation, you may only be dealing with a major alteration project.

Custom renovations may involve removing at least 50% of the exterior walls, but if you are not demolishing the entire building, it’s probably not a full demolition which you would require a demolition permit for. That’s not to say you’re excused from permits: you just need to make sure you are obtaining the right ones.

Speaking of permits, you will likely need the structure’s building permit to obtain a demolition permit. If the structure does not have the proper building permit, that doesn’t mean you don’t need a demolition permit to knock it down.

There are a lot of details that need to be cleared if you do decide to move forward with a total demolition: you may also need to determine whether there are any local ordinances that need to be considered. If the structure is historic, you’ll need different permissions to tear it down. You may also need to deal with demolition delay ordinances which come into effect to ensure that all of the appropriate organizations are notified of the demolition before it begins.

Depending on your location and local laws, you will likely need to book and pay for an inspection before receiving a demolition permit. These inspections are usually taken care of by your city or town’s building department and are completed to determine safety considerations and potential complications that may arise.

The main focus of home inspections before demolition is to determine whether or not there are any hazardous materials present, such as asbestos, lead paint, and mould. If any hazardous materials are detected, they are identified in the inspection so that the proper remediation methods can be followed.

Other inspections or red tape that could be anticipated include tree preservation information, sewer and utilitiy caps, intent to demolish forms, soil compaction requirements, erosion control inspections, and if you are demolishing several homes, you will probably need a grading plan.

Sometimes, these various permits will be required for submission before your demolition permit is even considered. If you are planning on demolishing a house, your best bet is to figure out what exactly is required for a local demolition permit and start the process of collecting all the necessary documentation.

Instances When a Permit May Not Be Required

If you are tearing down a house with any electricity, sewer, or water services, you will need a permit. However, if you are removing a shed or garage, or any other small buildings that do not have any utility connections or basement-type foundations, you probably won’t need a permit (though as most home renovation companies will recommend, you should always check to be sure). You also may not need a permit if you are just removing a deck or porch to rebuild it.

Other Things to Consider

Once you know you have obtained all the proper permits – or perhaps while you are waiting for their approval – here are some other loose ends you might want to tie up before you tear down.

Get in touch with your mortgage lender before destroying the home, because unless you are completely free of all liens and encumbrances, your mortgage is tied directly to the structure on your property.

If your home is considered a historic property, you may need to follow a very different process to have it removed than you would for a regular structure. If this is the case, you might have to change your plans to deconstruction rather than demolition and have parts of the home preserved.

In Conclusion

Although knocking down a house may seem like a straightforward task, there are a lot of details that need to be properly looked after before you can move forward with this project safely and legally. Make sure to do thorough research when preparing for demolition.




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