How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
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How do I find previous building permits for a house?
Thursday, April 6, 2023
Most building departments now have their older (closed) permits available online. The first thing you need to know is the jurisdiction where the home is located. It could be in an unincorporated area of a county or possibly within city limits. You can usually go to the county or city website, locate the page on the site for the building department (also might be called “planning and development,” “growth management,” or something similar) and find a “permit search” page.
Some jurisdictions allow immediate access and downloading of any permits in their database, while others require you to submit an application online and wait a day or two for them to email the information to you. Smaller towns may even need you to send an email with your request and, again, wait a few days for them to get back to you.
Building departments in Florida are only mandated by the state to keep old permit data for ten years, and that’s exactly what some jurisdictions do. Others keep them available further back, but it’s unusual to find info on permits issued before the mid-1990s. So it’s a good idea to inquire about how far back their data goes if you are not finding what you need.
And if you are not that computer literate, a call to your local building department can sometimes get you the permit information you’re looking for over the phone.
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Field Guide for Home Inspectors, a quick reference for finding the age of 154 brands of HVAC systems, water heaters, and electrical panels, plus 210 code standards for site-built and manufactured homes, and the life expectancy rating of 195 home components. Available at amazon.com for $19.95.
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