Each week, The Herald’s Nena Groskind answers real estate questions.

This week, a seller writes in:

I bought my house almost 20 years ago and have remodeled it slowly over the years (adding a kitchen, full bath, half bath, bedroom, etc.).

I’m confident I did the work competently and in compliance with local building codes. However, I never got building permits for the work, nor did I have jobs inspected after completion.  Now I’m planning to sell the house, and I fear that the lack of building permits will cause problems.

What do you suggest?

Her response?  Basically, don’t mention the renovations and lack of building permits, unless a buyer specifically questions it.

Oy!  As Nena G says, it’s legally permissible not to mention the fact that the work was done without permits, but boy, this is a bad situation, all around.  The seller will always risk a buyer coming back, later, with questions, or worse, a lawsuit, should shoddy work lead to an accident, fire, dismemberment, or death.

If you’re a buyer, always, always, always ask if the seller got building permits for any and all work.  If they don’t have copies on hand, go to city hall and find them, on your own (you can view them, online, in Boston, by going to www.cityofboston.gov/isd).

Complete article: Don’t ask, don’t tell is a legit strategy

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