A Surrey couple has learned the hard way that doing renovations without a permit can come back to haunt you.

An inspector ruled last spring that the back deck of Paul and Christine Vincent was not to code, and neither was the work done in their basement. Both renovations had been completed long before they purchased their Surrey home four years ago.

"We bought it as a finished basement. We didn't know it wasn't with permits, so we only found that out, after we were investigating about the deck and the door," said Christine Vincent.  

The property disclosure statement provided by the previous homeowners stated they were not aware of any additions or alterations made without a required permit.

In the midst of their own massive renovation project, the Vincents now can’t get permits to finish the work until they get the city to sign off on the deck and basement renovation that was done by the previous owners.

"Inside I've done work, or want to proceed with electrical and plumbing permits, and I can't do that until the resolve of the deck," said Paul Vincent.

Although an estimated 70 per cent of renovations are done without a permit, many building industry experts warn that jobs done without them can be a recipe for disaster.

"The liability of somebody chopping off their arm, or killing themselves on your job and you being responsible for it, right down to, you know, the deck wasn't done right. There have been examples of that in the past. You've got 30 of your friends on it and it falls over. It can be a serious issue," said John Friswell of CCI Renovations.

The Vincents are now left with the hassle of trying to get the proper permits for work done long ago by a previous homeowner, who refuses to accept responsibility. They say they’ve been forced to take time off work to make several trips to city hall to sort out the issue. They’ve also had to get new engineering drawings in hopes of getting the city to sign off on a deck built 23 years ago. It’s a process that's costing them money and holding up their current renovations.

"I think it's just a lesson learned for us, you know, play by the book. Do it right and just do the permit thing," said Paul Vincent.  

If you're looking to do some home renovations this year, the Greater Vancouver Home Builders Association is holding a free renovation seminar May 24th at VanDusen Botanical Garden.  Pre-registration is encouraged. For more information click here