Ask A Realtor: Is A Permit Necessary?

We’re finishing our basement and replacing an old water heater with a larger one.  I know a water heater and basement are technically supposed to be permitted, but we don’t see the need for paying for a permit just to put in a new water heater, and we don’t want the county to know the basement is finished and increase our taxes accordingly.

Are we hurting ourselves when it comes time to sell?

The vast majority of people buying a home today elect to have a professional home inspector look at the home prior to purchasing it.  As a general rule, most of these inspectors will compare permits on the home with the home itself and report discrepancies as problems on the inspection report.

So in the case of your water heater, the permit is only a nominal charge and is well worth not having that ding on the buyer’s inspection report.

The lack of a permit for the basement would be a major concern for most buyers and will devalue the finished basement by thousands of dollars.  On the other hand, the increased taxes if the assessor updates the record for your home will likely be less than a couple hundred dollars per year for a typical Springs area home.

When it comes time to sell, you are always better off to have done things the right way the first time around – this includes getting the required permits.

Jeremy Isaac is a Colorado Springs Realtor and the husband of Springs Bargains!  If you’ve got a question about buying or selling a home that you’d like to see answered here, contact him and he’ll be happy to help you find an answer.

Jeremy’s website allows you to search the Colorado Springs MLS with no registration required!



  1. I believe permits are required for an electric water heater, Regional Building wants to verify electric is correct and that the T&P is installed properly.

    • I attempted to call regional building to confirm one way or the other and after being on hold 10 minutes it routed me to someones voicemail. That said, I’m removing that sentence ’til I can confirm.

      Frankly, there *shouldn’t* be an issue with *replacing* one electric water heater with another. You’re not dealing with gas, and nothing is changing on the electric if you already had an electric water heater. T&P values are typically factory installed now so that shouldn’t be an issue either. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t require a permit :)

  2. Catherine says:

    Hope it’s ok to ask this question here although I do feel a little silly asking. : ) Do you need a permit to build an 8×8 play structure/house in the back yard? It seems you need one for a building of a certain size but I can’t find the answer.

    • You can call regional building to confirm, but I don’t see any reason that would need a permit. I’ll just say that it won’t be an issue when selling your house if the playhouse wasn’t permitted.

  3. Any shed, playhouse, etc. under 120 square feet does not require a permit in El Paso County/Colorado Springs.

    • If you were going to run water or electric to the shed/playhouse, that might require a permit. Just FYI. I’ve built a playhouse for a family and a couple of sheds, none of which had wired electric. The family w/the playhouse decided the kids would be safer without electrical outlets – they ‘rough it’ with flashlights or a battery operated lantern. :)

  4. To tag onto this question, what if you live in a house that did not have a permit pulled when the basement was finished? Is there any way to reconcile this after the fact so it isn’t an issue when the house is sold again?

    • Roxanne says:

      as the current homeowner you can buy the permit yourself (like paying back taxes) however, I would recommend checking with an inspector or the building department–it could fall under “grandfathered in” clauses depending on when it was finished. one of our houses had the same situation, but the only thing we had to have permitted (and pay for ourselves) before we could sell was the water heater update

  5. Meredith says:

    A permit insures that your work has been inspected wiring/plumbing etc. So if you cut corners by skipping the permit what other corners do you cut. I would never ever buy a house that didn’t have proper permits just for that reason. If a buyer can’t trust you to follow the law on the simplest of matters than how can they trust the home will be safe for their family?

    • I agree permits should be in place however I bought a new home here in the Springs and the builder got the city to sign off on work that was not done to code, go figure, when I called the city they said they couldn’t go to each home every time the builder needed a permit(they said it would cost too much). And the city is only held to its sign off for six months after that you have no recoure except for with the builder or installer.

      • I have seen the inspectors ‘drive by’. It frustrated me a little to see it, because at the time (about 10 years ago) we were building our own house, and they would go over everything with a fine tooth comb. Looking back, I’m grateful for that. We are not in the trades, so we were doing our best – and actually, we passed our inspections without problems, but I’m glad that they were checking our work to be sure, before we covered up problems with siding and drywall. :)

        • We had a roofing job not pass muster — but were never notified as the Homeowner, either. Kind of explains the cool breezes we now had that didn’t exist before.

  6. Stephanie Rains says:

    We put in a 300 sqft stone patio, do we need to pull a permit for that?

  7. Glenn Greenfield says:

    Your Regional Building Department can answer all of these questions:

  8. How close to the property line in El Paso county can you build a shed?

  9. Get the permits! We purchased a house that had an upgraded water heater installed by the owner and we had the potential for carbon monoxide issues because the larger heater had different venting requirements — so pay for the permit and do it right. We were able to fix our problem when we finished the basement, but we made sure to have carbon monoxide detectors throughout our house.

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