City says I’m now on the hook for new windows that were installed by the previous owner without a permit. Is that true?

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At Ashlar, I firmly b that an educated home buyer or seller is best equipped to make their own decisions. That’s why I take time out of my day each and every day to answer someone’s real estate question.  And, when I think the answer can be useful to you as well, I share it here.  So without further ado:


City says I'm now on the hook for new windows that were installed by the previous owner without a permit. Is that true?

Unpermitted work is a required disclosure in the state of Florida. So sellers and real estate professionals that have this information are required to disclose this information to you.

Now, there’s obviously a lot of detail in there. How’d you get the property, how many times it’s changed hands, how old the windows are, etc. If the windows have 2019 stickers on them, the neighbors say they did the work in 2020 before the pandemic, the owner you bought it from owned it since 1983, and you found the receipt where they paid for it… well that seems pretty clear cut.

If the windows are mid 2000s, and the home has changed hands 3 times since then, including a foreclosure, well that’s going to be much, much harder to prove. There is a requirement the seller had to know, and that’s a tricky thing to prove.

However I do want to point out some things:

Any half competent inspector should have noticed new windows with no permit recorded and brought that to you attention. One reason you hire an excellent inspector is to find out these things.
Your realtor should have also mentioned unpermitted work if they saw / detected it. Whether they did or not is hard to say, many agents really don’t know any of this fine detail stuff that’s pretty critical.
But at the end of the day, if the city believes work was done without permit they are usually within their rights to tell you to tear it out and replace it, show proof of work, etc.

Unfortunately the burden falls on the current home owner to solve the problem (thus why unpermitted work is a required disclosure… it materially affects the value of the property).

You *may* have a case against the previous owner, because a seller can certainly be held liable for not disclosing what they are supposed to. But you’ll need to speak with an attorney as there’s a ton of details and variables needed.

There’s also workarounds with the city such as after the fact permits but again a lot of variables and not a slam dunk. An attorney will likely advise you on that also.

Window replacement is on the “city probably going to have big problem with it” side of the scale, kind of like ‘full roof replacement’, ‘adding 500 square feet off the back door’ or ‘converting a garage to living space’. Whereas things like ‘single new electrical circuit in the house’ yes you’re supposed to get a permit as well but that’s usually an easy fix, as long as you don’t burn the place down.

Stupid thing is permits are relatively cheap and easy for home owners compared to the project, insures things are done correctly and to code (mostly), and eliminates these headaches and potential long lasting liabilities.

Kyle Sasser

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