Okay, so you wake up one Saturday morning to the sounds of construction work. You wander over to the window with your cup of coffee and notice your neighbor has stripped the siding off of the side of his house. He is in the process of forming a stem wall for a new room. "Oh, you think, Bob is finally adding that addition." You don’t think much more about it and get involved in your family activities for the weekend.
As the weekend progresses, you can’t help noticing the late hours Bob is keeping as he begins framing his new room. Sunday night, you glance out and see Bob’s RV parked alongside his house. Monday through Friday, you don’t hear another sound from Bob. Friday night, he’s at it again. Okay, you weren’t born yesterday, obviously Bob is avoiding the city permit and inspection process. You know you are the only one noticing the construction, but what can you do? Should you just look the other direction, or should you get involved? After all, as far as you know, Bob hasn’t built a thing in his life before. On the other hand, you treasure your own personal freedoms and don’t relish the idea of neighbors reporting your every move. Just as if you noticed Bob stealing or dealing drugs, what he is doing is illegal. You may feel bad, but you do have an ethical and legal responsibility to say something.
Before you get involved, you can research the laws of your particular area. Legally, each state varies in its requirements for building. Oregon, for example, is a "no complaint" state. Therefore, if you can complete a project without permits and no one complains, the building department won’t say anything after the fact. Transversely, other states have very strict laws. They will demand you not only pay a hefty fine, but tear down the project, no matter how far along it is.
Not only is Bob breaking the law, but he is wasting time and money by building his project illegally. If you feel comfortable enough, talk to Bob about it first. Tell him your concerns about not only the appearance of the project for your property value, but the safety for his own family in building a room that is potentially structurally unsound. Permits often aren’t very expensive, and many building departments are more than happy to work with the "do-it-yourselfer." If you are very troubled by the project and are concerned for your own safety by reporting Bob, you can make an anonymous call.
Working with a contractor removes all of the unknown fear commonly associated with the permit process. You’ll be so much further ahead if you do it right to begin with.