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COVID -19 and the housing black market

COVID -19 and the housing black market

Covid-19 has impacted so much of our world in the last 2 years. No part of our lives hasn’t been impacted by the pandemic, including the construction and design industries. This article, Housing boom exposes black market in Fraser Valley – Real Estate | Business in Vancouver, discusses how more than 800  construction projects were investigated in the City of Surrey in 2021. The cause for the investigation is typically due to homeowners starting renovation or construction projects without getting permits. This typically results in a stop-work order or a work without permit order, which has many consequences. Homeowners may find themselves unable to get home insurance or financing for their projects. This can also lead to criminal charges and fines of 10-15 thousand dollars. This is an unnecessary headache that no homeowner wants to deal with, so what is the cause of the increase? 

Project Increase

During COVID so many families found themselves with more time on their hands than ever  before and because no one could go anywhere they all of a sudden had more money saved. This led to many people deciding to use this extra time to renovate their homes. However, that decision did not necessarily go as smoothly or as streamlined as they had hoped. COVID caused many organizations to shut down at all levels, including the government.

All of a sudden, an already timely process of getting a permit was taking significantly longer as they worked out the kinks for employees to work from home. Many of the professionals calling into the City struggled to get anyone to answer the phone or to get the answers they needed from being transferred from one person to another. This frustration resulted in many people deciding to start work without permits not knowing the potential repercussions of doing so. 

Institutional Delays

On top of the government delays in getting a permit, even gathering the required documents became challenging. Site visits were more challenging as companies had to put policies in place that met the government guidelines and CDC recommendations. Companies also had staffing issues and supplies became increasingly challenging to find as shortages increased. These staffing issues are likely to continue to impact us long-term as students were unable to find adequate internships. Companies did not want to bring in extra people to their bubbles so many interns had to work from home, massively limiting what they were able to learn from colleagues. This may result in gaps in learning for students now out in the workforce. 

It is not necessarily that there is such a drastic increase in people renovating without permits either. More people are now working from home than ever before. That means that your neighbors are home all day and the construction noises that may have gone unnoticed before, are now bothersome to those trying to get their work done. Your once mild-mannered neighbors now have a stake in whether or not you pulled a permit to determine if they can get the construction noises to cease. It is not necessarily that there was no unpermitted renovations occurring before the pandemic. The City just did not catch them as often.  


But I didn’t do the work…?

Unfortunately, a stop-work order can occur at any time and follows the house and not the homeowner. If the home you just bought had work done and the City checks, you are the one on the hook. All it takes is determining that the aerial photographs do not match the drawings the City has. Then, you either have to go through the process of getting it permitted, or return it to its original state. This will still require a permit to verify that everything was returned to its original state. This is time-consuming and costly. It may not currently be your issue, but the new homeowner may decide to take legal action against you to recoup their costs. 

Getting a permit may seem like an unnecessary pain now however, it is something that needs to occur before starting any work on your property. Even if it seems that everyone is renovating without permits, that doesn’t mean you can or should. This should not be a normalized process.  In the long run, getting permits first  will save you money, headaches, time, and potentially criminal charges. Let us help you handle your stop-work order rather than ignoring it!

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