Litchfield County real estate information, local events and more.


Get thyself to the building department! If you don't, someone else will.

Permits and C.O.'s in Connecticut real estate transactions. 

A thorn in the side for many of us, home owner, real estate agent, home inspector, attorney, appraiser, loan officer, underwriter. The lack of a permit or certificate of occupancy can put the brakes on a real estate transaction faster than you can say "I sold my house".

In Connecticut it is the responsibility of the contractor doing the work to obtain the proper permits and certificate of occupancy (if required). But as a very smart real estate attorney pointed out recently, trying to track them down after the fact can be almost impossible.

The home owner would do well to make sure all is as it should be with the building department. After all, it will affect them in the long run.

But the field card says I have a finished basement and I am being taxed on it. Doesn't that mean it is legal?

In a word... NOPE!

Some people have the misguided idea that if the building department doesn't know about work that has been done on a home, they won't be taxed on it. NOT TRUE! That pesky tax assessor will tax you on what you have, they don't care if it's legal or not! They don't "speak" to the building department, they don't rat you out. They just want money for what is there!

If you have had work done on your home it is well worth a trip or a call to your local building department. Make sure the correct permits were pulled, make sure they were signed off on, and certainly make sure where needed a certificate of occupancy was obtained.

If you are thinking of selling your home this is a must. No permits, no C.O.'s can stop a deal dead in its tracks until you do what your contractor should have done in the first place. If you had the work done a few years ago and building codes have changed... well... you will have to get the work up to today's codes!

How is anyone going to find out there was never a permit for work done on my house?

Your listing agent should know, we visit the building department and see what is on file for the house. Comparing that to the list of work you have done on the house, we can advise you if something is amiss.

If it got past the listing agent, the buyers agent might be the one to figure out that deck doesn't have a permit. They also visit the town hall to check on these things for their clients.

If not the buyers agent, the appraiser should be making a visit to the building department. They will certainly let the buyers lender know if something is amiss. And there are times when it shows up at the 11th hour and the attorneys have to be involved. No fun at all, at any step of the process.

FYI, the people at the building department won't bite. They will pull the information on your house, they will let you look at it, they will even go through it with you if you aren't sure of what you are looking at! You want to know all the proper permits were pulled for work done, that they are not still "open", that the town came back and checked on the work when it was finished. And where a certificate of occupancy is required, that it is in place.

True story... I had a buyer for a home a few years back. I went to the building department and found a curious thing. The 2 story cape was listed in the building department as a 2 story colonial, with no certificate of occupancy for the second floor! The poor seller was not guilty, the house had been through a few owners before him. But he had to jump through hoops to get the C.O. for the second floor, which had 2 bedrooms and a full bath! If I hadn't found it, the appraiser would have and it would have caused problems for sure. By the time the appraiser made it to the building department all was well. There was a certificate of occupancy for the ENTIRE house on file. Whew... crisis averted and just in time.

Even if you and Uncle Bob put that beautiful deck on the back you needed to obtain a permit for the work. And the building department needed to be notified when you were finished so they could come out and check out your fantastic work. Just to make sure it was up to code. And by the way, that wood stove you put in required a permit!

Litchfield County Connecticut Real Estate Information. Permits and Certificate of Occupancy in the real estate transaction.

Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County Real Estate

2017 President, Greater New Milford Board of Realtors

2017 Connecticut Magazine 5 Star Realtor


 Search homes for sale in Litchfield County, CT.


Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

Litchfield County Regional Office,375 Danbury Rd, New Milford, CT 06776


© Andrea Swiedler 2009 - 2017

 Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest. - Mark Twain

Comment balloon 23 commentsAndrea Swiedler • September 28 2013 04:30AM


Andrea, I had an issue a while with a deck that was several years old. It didn't meet the current code.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 6 years ago

Andrea, so true, and often it is the home inspector that throws this wrench in the gears.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 6 years ago

Michael, it happens far too often.

Charles, let me go and add you in because you are so right! Thank you!

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) over 6 years ago

I run across this problem more often than I'd like to. Sometimes it's homeowners who don't want to pay for the permits, so they use a contractor who's willing to do work without getting permits. Sometimes it's a homeowner who did work on his own without checking County regulations. And sometimes it's a homeowner who bought a house without doing sufficiant due diligence. In the end, no matter how the problem comes about... it's a problem!

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage ) over 6 years ago

You have to verify everything before you put a home on the market. It will be found out and you will lose a sale if you do not do this properly. Problems do not go away as much as we think they  do. The bank will always catch it and besides you need it correct for a good appraisal.

Posted by Jimmy Faulkner, The Best Of St. Augustine (Florida. Homes Realty & Mortgage) over 6 years ago

its all fine and dandy until it is time to sell...then the "what happened" and "what needs to be done" kicks in

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 6 years ago

Hello Andrea, We run across this all the times, and the people are there, "No I saved the money but I did it to code"  What is wrong with some people sometimes.

Posted by Will Hamm, "Where There's a Will, There's a Way!" (Hamm Homes) over 6 years ago

All to avoid paying a nominal fee. I hope home owners enjoy that addition or new deck they put on because it's not going to sell unless you do your due diligence!

Posted by Suzanne Otto, Your Montgomery County PA home stager (Six Twenty Designs) over 6 years ago

Each local agency does things a little differently Andrea. The contractor should follow through to make sure that the "final" has been secured; some areas require an extra step to be officially done.

Also, if the permit has expired, more paperwork and money will be involved.

Enjoyed your thorough post today!

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage Mobile - 916-765-5366) over 6 years ago

Andrea -- Great post.  A few years back I asked the simple question to the seller, "Did you get a permit for this?" and while he answered, yes, it was not true. Very long story short --- He had to actually take down the deck, rebuild it, and do a number of other things that were all incorrectly done before the CO was issued. You have presented wonderful advice that will avert that '11th hour' madness!

Posted by Barbara Altieri, REALTOR-Fairfield County CT Homes/Condos For Sale (Kinard Realty Group Fairfield and New Haven County CT Real Estate) over 6 years ago

The worst is when the appraiser does the homework and they flag something that isn't on the field cards or is different that what the cards describe. That can really mess up a deal

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) over 6 years ago

Hi Andrea,

   Very,Very good advice,indeed.



Posted by Charlotte Luxury Real Estate, Eli Magids (Keller Williams - Ballantyne Area) over 6 years ago

Andrea I just talked to a lady who's husband built an entire room on their home and she wasn't sure he pulled permits. She had talked to 3 other agents before me and not one of them asked her about that room and permits.  She was really happy to know that was the first thing we needed to solve before moving forward with listing the home.

Posted by Anna Banana Kruchten CRB, CRS, GRI, WLS, 602-380-4886 (HomeSmart Elite Group) over 6 years ago

Most of our permits are now online, but its a good point.  Find out what ISN'T permitted up front, so you can get ahead of the ball.

Posted by Richard Daskam, Your Real Estate Consultant (Keller Williams Coastal Properties) over 6 years ago

Andrea ... With so many municipal entities searching for additional dollars, this is becoming a much wider issue.  Some jurisdictions are adding "permit requirements" for things just taken in stride ... locally here,  that includes ceiling fan installations and fence repairs!  So even simple "do-it-yourself" projects may not be exempt from the permitting requirement.

Posted by Jack Mossman - The Nines Team at Keller Williams in Stockton, The Nines Team at Keller Williams in Stockton (The Nines Team At Keller Williams) over 6 years ago

It's so interesting to see how things are done in other parts of the country. In Sue-Happy California, a real estate agent would not DREAM of going to the building department to look up building permits because a) it's not our job and b) we could get sued for what we did not find while we were there.

Posted by Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Realtor Top 1%, Put 40 years of experience to work for you (RE/MAX Gold) over 6 years ago

It's practically a given that any house on Long Island will have certificate of occupancy issues.

Posted by Jill Sackler, LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate (Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500) over 6 years ago
This is an excellent post and touches on an important topic that should not be taken lightly. In response to Jack #16, I never thought about double checking to see if you need a permit for installing a fence. It is always a good idea to check with the local permits office to be safe. Like you said, even easy "do it yourself" projects may not be exempt from the permit requirement
Posted by Rosie Moore (Serving Sugar Land, Richmond, Rosenberg, Missouri City) over 6 years ago

Andrea those pesky permits, how they can bite you in the donky if you don't have them.

Posted by George Souto, Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert (George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages) over 6 years ago

I have found the word "closed" to throw many people. Permits are great, but closed permits are what you need. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 6 years ago

Very thorough advice, thanks for sharing.  Thank Heavens we don't have to deal with that kind of regulation in the Sunny South!

Posted by Jared Garfield, Invest With The Best For The Highest Returns! (Rich Life Real Estate Team) over 6 years ago


Very informative post.  Sometimes even if the permits are in place, the work is not up to code.

Ann Hayden in Wildwood, MO

Posted by Ann Hayden 636-399-7544, (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties-St. Louis Missouri) over 6 years ago

Any older home that has any sort of upgrades or additions in this area may have been done before there was even a building dept. much less records. Another reason to get a home inspection looking for issues.

Posted by Bill Reddington, Destin Florida Real Estate (Re/max By The Sea) over 6 years ago