Most houses are inspected by a home inspector before they’re sold. However, home inspectors usually don’t inspect the permit record on a house. To be sure you have the complete picture, it’s wise to go to the local planning department and check the permit history on the home you’re buying before your inspection contingency is due.
Why is this important? Some planning departments require that any open or expired permits that haven’t received final approval must be completed before a new permit on the property will be issued. In one case, a seller took out a permit to replace the roof. He never had the job done and the permit expired.
The new owners applied for a permit and were denied. They needed to pay to reopen the roof permit and complete the job before they could obtain a permit to do additional work on the house. This could add a considerable cost to your improvement budget.
You might be able to file a claim against the seller, depending on the circumstances. However, he may not have been aware of the expired permit if a previous seller took out the permit and your seller didn’t check the permit record when he purchased the property.