What Happens If I Add A Screen Enclosure Without Getting A Permit?

Written By Kenneth Wilson  |  1 Comments

So for some reason or another you are considering what happens if you build a screen enclosure without a permit. Perhaps you found a 2 guys and a truck operation who can ‘build anything’, but they don’t have a license or experience to get a permit. Maybe you think there will be some good family bonding time while playing with a life size erector set in your back yard that results in an awesome screen enclosure.  Both scenarios you stand to save a little bit of money at the expensive a potential lingering headache.  So it begs the question ‘what if’ I get this screen enclosure, without a permit.

Let me tell you, they will know.  They will come and arrest you.  Just kidding.

First of all lets cover how anyone will know that it is un-permitted.  The most common way is a neighbor reports you.  Permit reports can be found online in a few seconds.  All it takes in one neighbor who needs a power trip, or feels the need to be the under cover code enforcer to notice a pool enclosure poking out of your back yard.  A few punches of the keyboard he will know that structure has no permit and he will anonymously report you.  If you make it past the neighborhood commando, you won’t be so fortunate when the time comes to sell your house.  As part of most real estate transactions, an inspection is done.  The inspector will catch the un-permitted screen enclosure and as a result the transaction will be hindered.  While working in the screen enclosure buisness it was VERY frequent to get a call of “OMG help the home inspector says my enclosure is not permitted and we need to close in 3 days”.  Those calls are no fun, as I know in my head that the transaction will not be going through and someone will be highly disappointed.  The most uncommon way of being caught, is directly by code enforcement.  This however is becoming more prevalent.  With Google earth and satellite imagery available, its very easy to notice a new screen enclosure right from a comfy desk.  As crazy as it sounds some counties in Florida do employ code enforcement officers whos’ sole job is to scour the latest satellite images for code violations.  I am also aware of companies who have the technology to automatically detect new structures and compare them with permit records, although this technology is not in use anywhere that I am aware of.

If you are one of the many unfortunate souls who gets caught, here is likely what will happen.

  • You’ll get a fine.  Sometimes it is a one of fine.  Most of the time it is a fine with the condition that you have XX days to permit it or remove it, otherwise a daily fine will begin compounding
  • You will need to hire an engineer.  He/She will tell you what (if even possible) needs to be done to make it code complaint and draft a set of plans for you to use for your permit.  This will set you back $1000-$2000.  The final result may be a list of changes that amount to starting from scratch and building a new one.
  • Get your permit.  Take the plans from the engineer and apply for a permit.
  • Hire a contractor (or attempt a DIY).  Make the changes that engineer requires to the structure to comply with the current codes.
  • Close out the permit.  Call in your final inspection!

In my 3o years in the patio and screen industry I’ve heard from many (hundreds) of home owners who for some reason or another have an enclosure without a permit.  The extreme majority have had to tear it down.  There have only been a few times it was cost effective to engage an engineer and make the appropriate changes.

About the Author

I can build it, and I can help you get the patio enclosure you want! I got my start in the Florida patio industry back in the 70s as a young general laborer looking for something to make a few bucks. At the time I never thought it would end up as my career. Over the years I grew beyond the laborer position, becoming a foreman, superintendent, and then into executive management for some of the largest patio contractors, and material vendors. Now into retirement and slightly bored, I offer consulting services to new and existing contractors, and publish this website to help the people who love their patio's and screen enclosures the most - YOU!

  • I am looking to put a pool enclosure up in Orange County, Florida. Can you help with pulling and closing the pool enclosure permit. How much is your fee. Can you please e-mail me your phone so I can call you.


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