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Client Building Without Permit

jrmarch

I was hired to design a outdoor bar/dining area at an existing restaurant. No sooner had I obtained planning approval than I was notified by the clients that they were starting construction. I advised them to wait until they had a permit in hand, and explained the reasons for that, but they proceeded anyway. I submitted an incomplete set of drawings to the building dept. for preliminary review because there were several code issues that I was concerned about, including emergency egress issues. Several months have passed. Now I have comments back from the city. I passed the comments on to the client and notified them that I was terminating the contract because they aren't following my advise, and are making it impossible to do what they hired me for, combined with the fact that none of my invoices have been paid. I suppose I should notify the city that I'm no longer the architect on the project. Is there anything else I can do at this point to limit my liability?

 
Jan 15, 22 12:19 pm
b3tadine[sutures]

First thing, can you file a lien on the project? I'd let the city know. You could get insurance after the fact too. If it's a concern.

Jan 15, 22 12:24 pm  · 
3  · 
proto

+1 on design lien

Usually possible prior to permit issuance

Check your jurisdiction


Jan 15, 22 3:31 pm  · 
1  · 
reallynotmyname

Fry them.   Terminate your owner/architect contract for non-payment. Immediately notify the city that you are no longer attached to the project and they are doing construction work without a permit.  If you are aware that un-permitted work is happening, you are required to report it.  After the city shuts the jobsite down, the client may come back and want to hire you remedy things.  Or not.  They may go find some sh*tty architect that will stamp the thing for a pittance like $200.  Most towns have one.  There's a good chance you will never be paid for your work here.

Jan 15, 22 6:09 pm  · 
2  · 
Janosh

Most code violation compliants are not subject to public disclosure. I would call your AHJ's code enforcement official and explain your situation rather than submitting something in writing. While you have an obligation to public health and safety you don't have to make it obvious to your former client that any code enforcement that occurs originated with you - it may just further enflame them.

Jan 17, 22 11:58 am  · 
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rcz1001

It usually won't take the client much time to figure out who made the complaint. Especially if you're complaint is something that is likely to point right back at you. If the complaint was done like a concerned citizen saying something like this over the phone, like... "I notice there is some construction work at (street address), do they have a permit." Then they check, if they notice there isn't a permit, then they can go out with their building inspector or building official, they take a look, take photographs with what they saw, go back, get clear greenlight to issue "stop work order" and come right back with a nice "stop work order" notice. However, if your complaint is about the client building without a permit with only a partially complete permit set and they had not received the complete set, that would naturally point back to you because that would be the crux of the complaint filed and it doesn't take a slide rule to figure who filed the complaint.

Jan 17, 22 12:30 pm  · 
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Janosh

I don't think it really matters - my point was that it isn't necessary to inform the client of ones intention to alert the building department, there is no benefit in attaching ones name to such a report, and one certainly doesn't get anything by threatening the client with such a report. If they get shut down for construction without a permit there's no one to blame but themselves.

Jan 17, 22 6:31 pm  · 
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rcz1001

While that is true, clients can get enough info out of the building department (potentially) to figure out who made the report and would threaten to sue you. I'm not saying to threaten the client with a report. If you are unpaid, you can simply given them proper notice in a proper method for location ("perfecting a lien" for example or proper lawsuit notification process). In any case, you probably don't want to do one thing while doing the other. You have to be doing everything in good faith and being a douche (even though the client is being one) doesn't help.

Jan 17, 22 6:48 pm  · 
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Check the limits on small claims in your jurisdiction. There is a miniscule filing fee and you will likely prevail w/o a lawyer. 

Restraunt clients tend to be problematic.

Jan 16, 22 10:49 am  · 
2  · 
x-jla

Before the lien or lawsuit you can try to Write a demand letter threatening lien or lawsuit, cite the law that gives you lien powers, stipulate a deadline, and require payment + interest.  Send it certified mail with signature requirement. 

Jan 17, 22 10:40 am  · 
3  · 
reallynotmyname

This. Any action you take has to begin with a documented written communication informing the client of your position, your intentions going forward if they fail to perform, and a deadline for them to remedy things.  Check your contract, language along these lines is probably in there.

Jan 17, 22 11:18 am  · 
2  · 

I agree with what x-jla and really have said. Write a demand letter first. Then if if needed pursue legal action per your contract.

Jan 17, 22 12:31 pm  · 
1  · 
rcz1001

I concur. The exact manner of how to do it might vary a little from the tone of how x-jla said it but the essence and point being the same. If work is commenced then an anonymous "citizen" submitting a complain/concern to the city building department about a project being worked on without a permit. More like being an anonymous informant and they go and check and issue the stop work order. Of course, that's separate track of dealing with this issue from what x-jla suggested. One prior being about stopping something that is happening at the moment. The other is about your money & lien rights which you need to properly do in order to perfect the lien.

Jan 17, 22 6:10 pm  · 
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