So you want to do some remodeling to your home and you figure the one place to save time and money would be in the permit arena. After all, why really bother. This contractor seems reliable. It’s only one room being worked on. Who is really going to know anyhow?

In this three-part series, you’re going to get all the facts you need to decide whether or not you want to risk taking the “no-permit plunge”.

The most common myth about not pulling permits is thinking you’ll never get caught if you don’t file. It’s time to think again.

1. Disgruntled Neighbors

It may not have occurred to you when you argued with the guy down the block about how long his trash cans were out, that he could stymie your remodel. You couldn’t be more wrong.

According to Bob Steinbach of the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety ( if you are having a tiff with your neighbors, don’t count on your secret staying safe. In addition to the over 14,000 construction inspection requests the department receives weekly, dozens more are made to the departments Code Enforcement Bureau reporting unpermitted construction .

LABDS makes busting your neighbor a breeze… anyone visiting the LABDS website can put in any random address and immediately see if permits are pending (or not), see last permit approvals, as well as the name of the contractor on the job.

2. Bob and His LABDS Team

That’s right. If Bob’s guys are inspecting a property in your neighborhood and they have reason to suspect that you may be working without a permit (and you thought the port-a-potty wasn’t obvious) you may as well flush your secret down the toilet. Bob’s teams work by district, and the computers they keep in their cars let them know in real time who is trying to sneak past the system. Think Starsky and Hutch.

Busted: Finally, if you do get caught by LADBS, Bob’s real beef isn’t with your contractor (that’s up to the licensing board), it’s with you. That’s right. LABDS will look to the homeowner to recover any costs it takes to enforce the proper permitting, and the department will go to many lengths to be sure the job is done right. That means if the work has already been completed without a permit and inspections, you might be asked to open up an entire wall and/or rip out floor tile to make exposures accessible for inspection. This could cost you way more in time and money than it would have, had you obtained the proper permits to begin with. You’ll also be ordered to comply with all the city’s requirements to get the proper permits in place before you restore your property to the department’s satisfaction.

In other words, by the time the work on your home is finally complete, the real estate market may have already recovered.