King County program helps property owners correct illegal development in unincorporated areas, waives double fees
King County's Department of Development and Environmental Services is extending the Permit Fee Amnesty program through June 30, 2009 to help property owners with illegal construction or clearing and grading activity retroactively bring their project into permit compliance at no additional cost.
Currently, Title 27 (PDF*, 295KB) of the King County Code authorizes DDES to double permit fees charged for correcting construction, clearing, or grading activity conducted without permits in the unincorporated area. To be eligible for this temporary program, the unpermitted activity must have occurred prior to October 1, 2008 and a complete permit application must be filed with DDES by June 30, 2009.
The amnesty program is aimed at protecting public health, homeowner safety, and the environment by encouraging property owners to complete the county's permit process which ensures that construction and grading activity meets acceptable standards.
In the past, other counties without similar standards and permitting programs have seen deck collapses resulting in injury and even death due to poorly built and located structures. Similarly, the county permitting process assures that structures built in areas susceptible to heavy snows can sustain the specific snow loads outlined by code to prevent collapse.
A more common example of unpermitted activity is a garage illegally converted into living space. In addition to potential structural danger, this can over-burden associated septic systems, leading to failure. In some instances, property owners have unknowingly purchased property with unpermitted improvements. The permits for such work may be required by financial institutions to process a loan or refinance a property. The county's Permit Fee Amnesty program can help property owners bring their structures or land into compliance to meet those types of requirements.
Property owners who secure retroactive permits through this program must still comply with all provisions of King County development regulations, e.g., clearing and grading, critical areas, building and fire codes, and Health Department regulations for septic and well designs. In rare cases, due to extreme divergence from code, illegal construction, clearing and grading cannot be permitted. Under this scenario, the property owner could be required to restore the site to its previous condition.
DDES staff is available to help property owners avoid or correct these types of issues.
If you know you have illegal development
Property owners who know that construction has occurred on their property without permits should contact the DDES Permit Center at 206-296-6600 for help with the permit application process (this is known as "already-built construction" or an ABC permit). Permit application materials for ABC permits are available on the DDES Web site at www.kingcounty.gov/permits. The materials explain the required steps and review process for ABC permits. Property owners with illegal clearing or grading on their property should contact the DDES Site Development Services section at 206-296-6759.
If you are unsure if a structure on your property was properly permitted
DDES has a number of resources to help property owners who are unsure if a structure or improvement on newly purchased property has been properly permitted. First, the DDES Web site at www.kingcounty.gov/permits offers property research tools linked to the King County Assessor's records. Property owners can look at their property description to see if the County's square footage records match what actually exists in the home. This same research tool will also link customers to the permit history on a parcel in unincorporated King County. DDES Records Center staff at 206-296-6696 can also help with this research.
Free technical assistance is also available Monday through Thursday in the DDES Permit Center at 900 Oakesdale Ave. SW in Renton from 7 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. A map and directions to DDES are available online.
As noted above, the DDES Fee Amnesty Program for unpermitted construction and grading will remain in effect through June 30, 2009. For additional information, please contact Jarrod Lewis, DDES Permit Center Supervisor, at 206-296-6713, or Paula Adams, DDES Public Information and Records Officer, at 206-296-6682, or e-mail DDESWebInquiries@kingcounty.gov.
To request this information in alternate formats for people with disabilities, call 206-296-6600 or TTY Relay: 711.