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Clark County, cities offer amnesty for home improvements done without permits

Homeowners who have done minor repairs or additions without permits can get the work inspected and approved during May without paying any penalty as part of an “amnesty” initiative.

Clark County, Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City all are offering the program. Homeowners still have to pay standard permit fees and any costs needed to bring the work up to code.

But people caught doing work without a permit other times of year can face double permit fees in some cities and triple fees in the county, plus other costs.

Las Vegas offers amnesty year-round, encouraging people to “self-report” about work that’s not up to code or was done without permits, city spokeswoman Margaret Kurtz said.

“It lets the general public know, in a warm and fuzzy way, that we’re not bad people,” said Ron Nybo, the Boulder City building official. “A lot of people are scared to death of building inspectors and building codes.”

Officials say the amnesty is meant to make sure homes are safe, since work performed by inexperienced homeowners can be faulty, in some cases posing risk of fire or flood. It also can require costly fixes down the road.

“The whole point is to get safety compliance, not punishment,” said Ron Lynn, director of the Clark County Building Department.

The county and North Las Vegas said they’re making a special effort to get people in Latino communities to come forward, since they often don’t realize permits are required or don’t know how to get them.

County officials have done interviews with Spanish-language media to promote the amnesty offer and have had staffers talk to Latino residents.

North Las Vegas has offered training in both English and Spanish on how to navigate the permit process, and it will have Spanish speakers at an open house. A North Las Vegas inspector also works with community groups, said Greg Blackburn, the city’s director of community development and compliance.

Permit officials in the county, Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson also will offer open houses May 20 to answer general questions about permits.

Boulder City has offered amnesty periods for about 10 years, and some other jurisdictions have done so for five to seven years. But Lynn said this is only the second year local governments coordinated to offer amnesty at the same time in May, dubbed Building Safety Month.

Work done on commercial buildings isn’t included in the amnesty offer.

In its announcement, Henderson said the most common projects eligible for amnesty are room additions under 600 square feet, garage conversions, patio covers and water heater installations.

Other eligible work includes kitchen or bathroom remodeling, electrical and plumbing work, sheds and retaining walls up to 4 feet high.

Spring is a good time of year to offer amnesty, Blackburn said, because people often get tax refunds in May and start thinking about home improvement projects.

Contact Eric Hartley at ehartley@reviewjournal.com or 702-550-9229. Find him on Twitter: ethartley.

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