Question: We plan to fix up our house, including repainting, replacing the roof gutters, putting in a new driveway and installing new bathroom cabinets and counters. Are permits required?
Answer: It's possible you don't need any permits for the work you describe. However, when you hire a general contractor, the contractor will get, or "pull," any required permits for your project and set up required inspections.
If you are hiring the individual tradespeople yourself (which makes you an "owner contractor" or "owner builder") or doing the work yourself, you'll be responsible for getting permits and inspections.
To do that, contact your city's building department and ask which home-improvement projects need permits. Typically, permits are needed for structural changes, such as added rooms or a second story. Sometimes, permits are required for improvements of a certain dollar amount. Each municipality has its own rules.
Only the addition will be reassessed
Question: We just added 800 square feet of space to our Woodland Hills home and remodeled 400 square feet of the original house. What should I expect in terms of increased property taxes? Will the whole house be reassessed or just the addition?
Answer: The good news is that the county will appraise only the addition, not your whole house. The bad news is that your property taxes still will rise.
Here's how to figure it out: The county of Los Angeles currently places a value of about $135 for each square foot of space you add. So, your 800-square-foot addition will be valued at $108,000. Note that this could well be less than the actual cost of your project per square foot, so don't expect your contractor to meet that price. The county will tax that value at about 1.25% per year, which would add $1,350 a year to your property taxes. That will come to you as a permanent supplemental tax bill.
You won't be assessed for improvements to your original house such as counters, floors or windows, no matter how expensive they are. However, if you have added new plumbing -- like a new sink in a kitchen island or a new bathroom -- that will result in an assessment.
Of course, this is the type of information that's good to have before the project begins so the extra tax burden can be factored into future budgets. You can reach the L.A. County assessor's office at (213) 974-3412.
Submit remodeling questions to Kathy Price-Robinson at www.kathyprice.com, or to Editor, Real Estate section, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.