Monday, August 08, 2011

City Inspections: Building Department Records Search

We are in the last stages of going through the City electrical and plumbing inspections. It has taken us longer than we anticipated for two reasons. First, one of the inspectors misplaced some paperwork from his initial visit, so we had to wait for the paperwork to be completed a second time. Second, it was unclear whether one of our units had pulled appropriate permits for a kitchen and bath remodel, back in 2000. The city's online database did not show the necessary permits, so the inspector could not sign off on that unit for the condo conversion.

Luckily, the City's Building Department allows anyone to submit a form for a records search. You can download the form from the building department website, specify exactly what records you are searching for, and they will review all the microfiche, paper and electronic archives. I have to say the process was made very easy for us. After we mailed in the records search form, a clerk from the Building Department left us a voicemail message confirming they had received the request. She also stated the date when copies of any found records would be available for pickup. They charge a reasonable per page fee for making paper copies.

By great luck, the search turned up the records we needed. Without documentation of those permits and inspections, the owner of this unit would have had to open walls for the inspectors to see the plumbing and electrical work. The inspectors' job is ensuring the work is done safely, and without the documentation of the inspections, there would be no other way for them to certify the safety of the work. This work was done over ten years ago, and the unit had been sold twice over those years. So the current owner did not have any of the paperwork, and had no way of contacting the original owner.

So this leads to two pieces of advice. First, if you are part of a TIC that is able to enter the condo lottery, make sure everyone in your building is getting appropriate permits and inspections. Don't just take people at their word - get copies of the inspection sign-offs for plumbing, electrical as well as the certificate of completion. Keep these with your building records, so they are easy to find when it's time for you to go through the conversion.

Second, if the work was done years ago, and you don't have the records, take advantage of this City records search service. It could save you a lot of time and money.

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