If you are looking to add some space to your home, or you just want to increase the value, remodeling your attic could be the way to go. But, before you schedule appointments or even head to the bank for financing, you need to secure the right permits. Not having a permit could result in an illegal conversion — which comes with hefty fines and often the requirement of taking down the converted structure altogether.

What is an Illegal Conversion?

In New York, an illegal conversion is considered a serious offense against the New York City Building Code. Fines could include up to $15,000 and up to one year in jail for knowingly converting a space without a permit. Also, if anyone is injured because of your illegal conversion, you open the door to lawsuit and additional jail time. An illegal conversion is defined as any remodeling or additions done without the direct approval and permits from the New York City Department of Buildings — this includes converting an attic into a bedroom.

How to Get a Permit in New York City

Homeowners cannot get a building permit on their own. The New York City Department of Buildings requires that a New York State licensed professional engineer or registered architect submit plans to the city in order to obtain the permit. An examiner will then review those plans to make sure they meet all zoning requirements and safety requirements. Then, the application for the permit will be approved. After this application is approved, the building contractor must then apply for a building permit to start working on your property.

The Permit Process in New York City

The permit process in New York City is not homeowner friendly. You must first hire your licensed architect or engineer. Next, you will go through a few steps to finalize the process.

  1. Hire a contractor after your initial plans and application have been approved. The contractor must be licensed to construct in New York City. Your contractor — not you — must then apply for the building permit.
  2. Your contractor can begin working once he or she has obtained the permit.
  3. Once the work is done, you must arrange for an inspection by an NYC Buildings representative.
  4. The representative will fill out an Amended Certificate of Occupancy after all inspections are complete and passed. If you do not pass, you will have to make additional repairs to satisfy inspectors before receiving approval.

Converting your attic into livable space in New York City has been shown to actually earn you money. So even with the hurdles you have to go through, adding on to your home is a valuable investment worth tackling.

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