Renovation bonanza eliminates pesky permit fees

By Lucy McFadden

It’s a Bonanza!

Through June 15, the Home Renovation Bonanza offers Denver homeowners free, immediate construction permits for simple home improvements. The program is designed to stimulate the local economy for homeowners, contractors and home improvement stores.

Denver Building Department spokesman Julius Zsako notes that prices are down for most materials right now and competition is up for contractors, so this is an optimal time for Denverites to spruce up their homes.

The Bonanza applies to single-family homes and duplexes and covers simple improvements such as insulation, interior remodeling and installation of solar panels or new windows. Projects that require detailed plan reviews, such as home additions, are not included.

The program also is designed to raise awareness of the importance of permits. Permits regulate the construction industry, ensuring that qualified contractors have met job standards.

Work under the program must be completed within 180 days and is subject to other limits. When asked how the city would be able to enforce those rules, Zsako explained that when the job is finished, an independent inspector will visit the home to verify that the work meets code standards.

He pointed out other incentives for getting a permit, noting that homeowners gain added protection from the inspection at the end of the project. Also, improvements made with building permits qualify for home loans and increased valuation at the time of sale.

And the lack of a permit can make it impossible to collect on insurance claims.

“If you had a fire in your home because of an electric malfunction and you had no permit, you would not get insurance,” Zsako said.

The building department is pleased by the initial response to the program.

“Based on the first day alone, we hit a home run; we achieved our goals,” Zsako proclaimed. Twice as many permits were issued on June 1, the program’s opening day, as are issued on an average late-spring day.

Zsako said contractors were using the Bonanza as part of their pitch to persuade customers to get permits and start building.

He also said the program encourages contractors to finish a job and move on quickly to the next one, and that the price war on building materials combined with the competition among contractors is creating a boom in home renovation.

Normally, permits are $20 for projects costing up to $500 and $35 for projects costing between $500 and $2,000.

Permits are available from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Webb Municipal Building, 201 W. Colfax Ave. through June 15 and expire after 180 days. On Wednesdays, the office opens at 8:30 a.m.