Permits are sadly an overlooked aspect of Real Estate transactions. If permits are not adequately addressed before a house is sold they can cause unforeseen issues. Some lenders for example may require all open permits be closed in order to approve financing on the property. Leaving a permit search until the last moment can mean the current owner does not have time to remedy the situation before the closing. Alternatively if a buyer is not made aware of open permits until after the closing they may have to address them and cover the costs themselves.
Why would a permit search remain open?
To perform work on a property an owner needs to obtain a permit. Once the work is completed an inspection is performed and if approved the permit is closed. All things being equal this is how the process generally works. So if there are no signs any work is going on at a property, why would a permit be open?
The most obvious reason is a permit was granted but the work was not started or perhaps finished. Alternatively the work could have been completed but an inspection was never arranged… Or we can take this sequence to the next step and it could be that the inspection was conducted and did not pass… the owner then failing to rectify the issues or failing to arrange a second inspection.
A less obvious reason for open permits is failing to meet an expiration date. Counties vary in how they treat expired permits. One method is the owner can be asked to reactivate the permit before they can complete the work. In other cases a new permit will need to be requested which in turn results in the closure of the original permit. In both of these examples a payment is usually required and the owner is then free to finish the work and request an inspection.
Conducting a permit search
The first thing to note is that each county handles their permitting separately. As an example we’ll take Orange County. A quick search for ‘Orange County Permit Search’ should deliver the page you are looking for –http://www.orangecountyfl.net/PermitsLicenses.aspx#.W18-YzpKiUl
From here we can navigate to ‘Fast Track Permits’, ‘Search Tools’ and Permit Search. You’ll then be able to choose to search for all different permit types. For our example though we can go to Building Permits. From this page it is as simple as typing in the property address.
It’s worthwhile noting again the differences between each counties process. In this case for records prior to June 4th, 2012 you will need to search separately via the link for ‘Historical Permit Search’. This is a great example of the peculiarities to look out for in each counties website.
All in all, running a permit search is relatively straight forward once you have tested it out. To get you started I’ve included some links to the local sites below –
City of Orlando – https://permitlookup.cityoforlando.net/WebPermits/
Orange County – https://fasttrack.ocfl.net/OnlineServices/Permit_Building.aspx
Seminole County – https://egov.seminolecountyfl.gov/Click2GovBP/SelectPermit.jsp
Permits may seem like a small point in the grand scheme of things but if overlooked they can affect your closing. Hopefully this breakdown has provided some useful insight into how to ensure permits don’t become a bigger issue than they need to be!
Until next time, remember, whenever arranging a closing, always look Beyond Title® with The Closing Agent!
David J. Hollamby
Vice President – Marketing