• Gary Sandler
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    Published June 27, 2016

    Most people know that a building permit is required before beginning construction of a new home or commercial building, but many are surprised to learn that building permits are required for numerous small jobs as well.

    If you’re planning on doing more than just slapping a new coat of paint onto the side of your residential or commercial building, it’s prudent to determine if the alterations or additions you’re considering require a visit from the city or county building inspector.

    Adding a room or a garage, installing or constructing a storage shed or accessory building, installing or repairing a roof; installation of fences, swimming pools, slabs and sprinkler systems (yes, sprinkler systems!) definitely require a permit. Permits are also required for demolition and excavating; for changes to electrical, plumbing and heating systems, and for mobile home installations.

    Obtaining a permit is important for a number of reasons, with health and safety at the top of the list. Inspections conducted during the various phases of construction or alteration help ensure that structural integrity is maintained and that all mechanical systems meet or exceed minimum operational and safety standards.

    Although it is not illegal to buy or sell a property which doesn’t meet applicable codes (if it were, Realtors wouldn’t be able to sell any “fixer-uppers”), it is important that all known deficiencies be fully disclosed. In legal circles, full disclosure includes informing the buyer of the possible consequences he or she might face as a result of purchasing a property that lacks proper permitting.

    One of the more serious consequences of purchasing a “permit challenged” property or failing to obtain a permit when one is required could include bringing the addition or alteration up to code. Accomplishing this could be troublesome, however, when items to be inspected are hidden within walls or buried beneath a concrete slab. In a worst-case scenario, building officials can even require that an illegal structure or alteration be removed or torn down. Ironically, you’ll need a demolition permit before you can begin the work.

    How many permits are issued each month in our area? During the first four months of this year the City of Las Cruces issued 3,409 individual permits. Of the total, 116 applications were for construction of new single-family homes, nine were for construction of new commercial buildings, 103 were for residential building alterations or additions, thirty-six were for rock walls, and 2,996 were for roof replacements. The total value of the permitted work was $87,696,848, according to City of Las Cruces records.

    During the same period, our Dona Ana County Building Services Department issued 579 individual permits, of which 129 were for the construction of new single-family homes and 53 were for the installation of new rock walls. The county also issued 56 permission slips for residential alterations or additions, 355 roof replacements, and two new commercial buildings. The total value of the permits pulled during the first four months of this year was $21,090,499, according to county building permit reports.

    When planning your project, keep in mind that obtaining a permit doesn’t automatically make the addition or alteration legal. Before that can happen, all applicable inspections must be completed and “signed off” before the work is officially approved.

    If you have questions about whether permits are required for your project, contact the City of Las Cruces Community Development Dept. at 528-3222 (www.las-cruces.org/departments/community-develoment), or the Dona Ana County Building Services Division at 647-7350 (www.donaanacounty.org/development).

    By the way, it may be a good idea to make friends with your neighbors. According to city and county building permit information, 18 of them recently installed new swimming pools.

    See you at closing!


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    • About Author

      Gary Sandler