DEAR BARRY: We bought our home seven years ago. Recently, the county building department informed us that the studio apartment in our backyard was built without a permit. Neither the sellers nor our home inspector informed us about this, and we are now forced to spend more than $7,000 in retroactive permits and fines to fix something we did not do and were not made aware of. Is this something that we should be liable for, or should we hire a lawyer? --Ann DEAR ANN: If the sellers owned the property when the structure was built, they should have disclosed the lack of a building permit. Whether they are still liable after seven years is something you'll need to find out from an attorney. Home inspectors do not check for permits. However, if the studio was included in the home inspection, your inspector should have noted conditions that were substandard. It is reasonable for the building department to require a retroactive permit, but it is not right for it to impose a fine, s...
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