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County offers homeowner building permit amnesty
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Stanislaus County homeowners who’ve opted to go ahead and build that extra room — without a proper building permit — will have until the end of the year to set things straight with the county.

From July 1 through Dec. 31, Stanislaus County will employ a trial building permit amnesty program for homeowners, allowing residents to bring their houses into compliance without facing hefty fines.

The program will cover unpermitted residential buildings, additions and remodels, ranging from the conversion of a garage into a living space to grading and drainage improvements. Those in the program will be exempt from the double building permit penalty fee and civil penalties for work without a permit.

There are some caveats for the program, which only covers improvements made before 2008. All improvements must meet building and safety codes from the time of construction, and pay some associated fees.

Potential applicants can meet with county staff for a free, informal pre-qualification consultation, where applicants can learn if the program will work for them. Applicants will not be cited for building code violations should they choose to come forward for a consultation.

Applicants who opt to continue on with the program must then pay a $200 application fee and provide a number of documents including a site plan. A $105 inspection will follow, after which homeowners will receive an estimate of fees due upon building permit issuance.

Depending on the results of the inspection, some corrective work may be required — inside of 30 days for extreme safety violations and within a year for other issues. Program participants can appeal any inspection findings.

While the prospect of bringing an unpermitted improvement into compliance could be pricy, building permits can be required to process loans or insure properties. And the program will be less expensive than being caught without a permit.

If the program’s a success in bringing more of the county up to code, it could be extended or expanded to include commercial and industrial properties.

For more information, contact the county building permit division at 525-6557.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.