How to Find Out If My Neighbor Has a Building Permit

how to find out if my neighbor has a building permit

Homeowners will eventually have some remodeling work or outdoor construction projects done. By law, some home projects do require having a building permit. But what if you caught a neighbor building something without a permit? Should you rat them out? You might wondering “how to find out if my neighbor has a building permit“?

If you suspect your neighbor is building without a permit, you can conduct an online building permit search in your area. You can also contact your local government to report this. If your neighbor didn’t obtain a permit, an inspector will request to stop the project until a permit is in place.

Before hastily reporting neighbors you suspect don’t have a permit, you need to be certain that this is actually the case and that they didn’t obtain one.

This article will cover important details about building permits, and give tips on how you can find out if your neighbor has a building permit. We’ll also go over how to report building violations if you suspect your neighbor is building without a permit.

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Here’s a Quick Pro Tip!

While you can’t really prevent anyone from building on their own property, there’s a very real possibility their illegal construction work can accidentally cause damage to yours.

It’ll be your word versus theirs if things go wrong and your property gets damaged.

Having a good security system like a Ring Video Doorbell or Outdoor Security Cameras (both on Amazon) is a smart thing to do in this case, and will prove your innocence.

How to Find Building Permits Issued

A building permit is authorization from the local government to allow the construction of a project. This is to ensure that the building being erected will be safe and will adhere to building and zoning codes. Most remodeling and construction projects at home require this but some minor ones don’t.

If your neighbor is building an extension of the house or getting a new roof done then they should secure a building permit. But if they don’t have one, you could report them anonymously to the city inspector. However, before you contact the authorities, you need to do some investigation yourself.

Usually, you can confirm that a building permit is in place because an individual should make details of the building visible to anyone. That said, if your neighbor indeed has a building permit, he would have already posted a sign indicating that a permit was issued.

There may be instances in which a permit was obtained but the neighbor simply didn’t bother putting up a sign. In this case, you might want to do a building permit search in your area. 

The good thing is that this can be done online, depending on where you live. For instance, in Los Angeles County, they have a database of building permits issued for construction projects in the area. You might want to try searching online for “building permits viewer” followed by the city you live in.

Is There a Fine for Building Without a Permit?

More and more people want to take on construction projects on their own. This saves them time and gives them the freedom to do whatever they please with their property. However, homeowners also often overlook the regulations involved when building. 

That said, there is the potential of facing the consequences of carrying out construction work without first securing a permit. While going DIY may save them money, not securing a permit will add to the cost since one could face a fine.

If your neighbor gets reported for building without a permit, he or she can face a hefty fine. The amount will depend on where you live. In addition, if damage occurs due to faulty construction, that is another serious concern to think about, especially if someone gets hurt in the process.

What Happens If You Get Caught Remodeling Without a Permit

Remodeling your own home will still require a permit. This may be surprising to some; after all, it’s your house. How bad will it be when you’re doing a remodeling project without a permit? In addition, who will find out what you do inside your home?

Permits exist for safety purposes. When you apply for one, the authorizing officer will review your plans and deploy inspectors to check out the site to determine if the construction project is safe to do. So if someone remodels without a permit, the following are likely the consequences:

  • Safety issues – you may wonder, how is it considered unsafe if you simply remodeled your kitchen? You may not see it now but the years may take a toll on your unpermitted project, ultimately posing a risk to anyone living in that home
  • Resale value – if you have plans to put up your home for sale, you’d see the importance of a permit. Potential buyers would think twice about a home with renovation projects that didn’t have permits.
  • Fines and penalties – technically, you could get away without a building permit and not worry about the resale value since you don’t have plans of selling your home, for instance. But if someone finds out and reports you, you need to pay a fine. Usually, the fine is imposed on a daily basis until you get a permit.

What States Can You Build Without a Permit?

Depending on where you live, building permits may not be an issue. So, reporting a neighbor may be futile because there are states that do not have building codes or don’t require permits when building. So, it pays to know which states do not have building codes.

According to this Earthbagbuilding, citing an e-book on building codes by Terry Herb, it is possible for someone to build a home or carry out a construction project without paying extra fees for the approval of an authoritative body – that is if you live in certain states. 

Usually, it’s the larger cities that require individuals to adhere to building and construction codes. On the other hand, those in rural areas have more freedom. The states that don’t have building codes include Arkansas, Alabama, North and South Dakota, Michigan, Wyoming, and Missouri.

Can You Get a Permit After the Fact?

As stated earlier, there are consequences when you don’t have a permit for your construction or remodeling project. This will only come into play once you decide that your house needs to be sold. Maybe you have realized it late that you need that permit. If you do, then you will have to secure an after-the-fact permit.

Getting a building permit after the fact is the same as obtaining a regular permit. However, the cost and the level of convenience of getting this will depend on the type of work you completed. The inspector will also check on your work and decide if you have to deconstruct it.

There is the possibility that getting an after-the-fact permit will cost a lot more when you initially wanted to save by avoiding the permit. For this reason, securing a permit before doing any construction project is generally considered a more practical decision.

How to Stop My Neighbor From Building

Now that you have an idea about building permits and the consequences of not securing one, you might wonder how you can stop your neighbor from continuing with the work despite the lack of a permit. The need to stop the construction may stem from the fact that the project may result in the damage of your property, for example.

Perhaps, you want to stop your neighbor’s construction of a second story, which will block the light that will benefit your garden. Whatever the reason may be, you want to be sure that your neighbor doesn’t continue the project.

If a permit is there, that means an inspector has cleared of any possible damages the project may bring to your own property. It also means that your neighbor’s construction plans meet the standards and there’s nothing you can do about it. 

If, however, your neighbor doesn’t have a permit and you’re adamant about stopping the project, you can first talk to them if it’s comfortable for you. If that doesn’t work, you can report it to your local government.

How to Report Construction Without a Permit

If you’re taking the option of reporting a construction without a permit, keep in mind that this could strain the relationship you have with your neighbor. If that is not a great concern to you, you can go ahead and report the suspected violation.

There are a couple of ways you can do this. You can visit the website of your local Building and Safety office and find the page where you should report the violation to. This will depend on the area you’re in but usually an official website should have that option.

Another is to call 311 and file a complaint. You don’t have to worry about getting caught since you can leave out your information. 


Building permits are in place for safety and general welfare purposes. Still, many homeowners overlook its importance and can construct buildings without a permit and get away with it. If you are bothered by your neighbor’s construction for some valid reasons, you can report it to the local government.

However, you first need to verify if indeed your neighbor doesn’t have a building permit. Remember that permits should always be displayed for everyone to see. If you don’t see one, you can check an online database that covers your area to see if there is a building permit.

If you have found that your neighbor is carrying out construction without a permit and want to stop it, you can report it to authorities, who will take care of the situation.

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