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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I declined a bathroom remodel today. It's a full bath in a nice Victorian home, but a 1990's hack job in the bath. The owner wouldn't have had any issue with the budget for the bath. It was a solid referral from a prior customer.

The problem was that inspections would almost certainly have opened several cans of worms in the rest of the home - a kitchen in an illegal second unit; the same lack of venting in the downstairs bath as in the upstairs bath I would be remodeling; an un-permitted electrical remodel including sub-panel that might have been legal in 1992, but being un-permitted would have to be redone; and who-knows-what-else once you start tugging on the piece of yarn. The scope could easily go from $x to $4x in 5 minutes of inspector visit, and I really couldn't predict exactly where it would end up. I could have taken the job and been very surprised when it all happened.

I told the guy why I was declining it. Hopefully he'll give me a call in a couple years when he does a larger remodel. I think it was the first time I've declined a job because the cost was entirely unpredictable (to me anyway).
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
... I could have taken the job and been very surprised when it all happened.....
... by which I mean that I could have acted very surprised, and charged him 4X, based on all the unforeseen consequences that I had foreseen. I wouldn't have lost money, just some self-respect.

Edit: It's how much the increases would have been that would have been unpredictable. Part of the deal in California is that inspectors have to check on smoke detectors, water-conserving fixtures, elsewhere in the home from where the project is going on. You really don't know where the inspector's going to go, or what he or she will care about that day. Sometimes they'll stick to the permit scope; sometimes they'll wander around.
 

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Sometimes they'll stick to the permit scope; sometimes they'll wander around.
It seems sometimes like they are 'out of bounds' in there invasiveness. In the overall I think it is a good thing, and it protects owners and tenants. Especially the smoke detects and the electrical stuff. Must have been hard to pass on a victorian.
I wonder how much time needs to pass before it's 'Grandfathered in' and they can overlook the old out of code work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
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I wonder how much time needs to pass before it's 'Grandfathered in' and they can overlook the old out of code work.
The counter staff at the building department get asked about grandfathering all the time, and the only answer I've ever heard is "There is no such thing." One of the standard tricks people have is to try to include unpermitted or non-complying stuff in plans for other work - for example when remodeling a bathroom to put an old deck into the plans, "just to show everything." The idea is to try to get prior non-complying work into a set of approved plans, thereby giving it some future legitimacy, for example when you apply to replace the deck 3 months later. The plan-checkers are completely on to this, and will put a big circle around the deck and mark it "Unpermitted variance" or "Non-complying deck" or the like.

San Francisco has enforced building and planning codes since the 1950's, I believe, so something needs to be obviously older than that to get any sort of free pass.
 

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The counter staff at the building department get asked about grandfathering all the time, and the only answer I've ever heard is "There is no such thing." One of the standard tricks people have is to try to include unpermitted or non-complying stuff in plans for other work - for example when remodeling a bathroom to put an old deck into the plans, "just to show everything." The idea is to try to get prior non-complying work into a set of approved plans, thereby giving it some future legitimacy, for example when you apply to replace the deck 3 months later. The plan-checkers are completely on to this, and will put a big circle around the deck and mark it "Unpermitted variance" or "Non-complying deck" or the like.

San Francisco has enforced building and planning codes since the 1950's, I believe, so something needs to be obviously older than that to get any sort of free pass.
And the crazy thing is that with all of that code enforcement there is probably still a huge amount of illegal work being done that you have to compete against all the time, widening the gap between your legitimate numbers and their illegal ones...

Seems like all that code enforcement is more of an economic stimulus thing than anything...
 

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Am I wrong but I thought when you called for an inspection it was for the permitted work, not a whole house inspection. And how could you get dinged for work done previous. And if he found say electric wouldn't the HO have to call a sparky. I just don't see if your work passes why you would walk away. OK flame away.
 

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Am I wrong but I thought when you called for an inspection it was for the permitted work, not a whole house inspection. And how could you get dinged for work done previous. And if he found say electric wouldn't the HO have to call a sparky. I just don't see if your work passes why you would walk away. OK flame away.
Every jurisdiction gets to have its own rules. He's in San Francisco, so San Francisco rules.
 

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Did you explain you anticipation of An extremely out out control budget. And, that you anticipate a huge list of unforeseen structural and required code upgrades ?

You probably saved yourself the headache, but, what happens when the hacker goes in and makes it worse. or The Pro goes in a steals a customer.
 

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our lovely state of California....lol, sorry to hear Bob. On our last bathroom remodel, the inspector pulled some crap right out of the gate. Made a rude comment about the homeowners wife. Yes, she is a looker, but do you really need to say things like that with-in ear shot?! Needless to say, throughout the rest of the inspections, he barely poked his head in. And without out looking, he only asked if we brought the fixtures up to compliance, and asked about the fire/co2 alarms.....offered him to come in and see, but he replies "No thanks...I will stay out here..." lol

needless to say, we reported his unprofessionalism to folsom permit department. I think its one thing to say one is good looking, but the "up in those legs" comment drew the line.
 

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Bob, since you told the owner of the Victorian why you were declining the job, you gave him the option of saying, "Okay, I'll take the risk of having an inspector require all that extra work." Since he didn't make that choice, you left on good terms.

Maybe he'll call you back in a few years when he has a bigger budget. Honesty pays off in the long run.
 

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In my neck of the woods, the building dept. wouldn't make the current contractor responsible for unpermitted work done by others, but would require that the HO bring any non compliant or unpermitted work up to code.
This could get dicey for anyone under contract at the time. Customers could subconsciously blame you for bringing a inspector on the job and opening a 'can of worms' on them.
 
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Bob, you should have taken the work, as long as you notified Homeowner he could have issues for previous work which was done without permits and they can make them do this and that, and if the HO is OK with it, that is theirs problem.

As your work, building department cannot hold your work up for which permit was issued, because you have nothing to do with previous work and you there doing everything legit and code compliant.

If they want to break HO chops for word done without permit ( 95% of the time they don't care what is there, because they not there for that). but if they do pick on something, what they do here is, give the HO so many days to correct the issue and file needed permits and if the HO will not comply in so many days and will not file anything, they will impose a fine and have him pay so much per day until he files for permit.

Few times I've seen them really breaking balls, because there were obvious safety, fire or health issues, which condition could endanger the occupants or others, in that case they can make you remove what ever is there and file for a demolition permit.
On a few occasions, got a few real nice remodeling jobs because of this issues, and made the work I was doing there like a drop in the bucket in comparison to what HO wanted to do in order to resolve this issues.

Good luck
 
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