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Official says many storm repairs under way illegally

Published 4:57 pm, Wednesday, November 14, 2012
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There are many things that may have changed, thanks to Superstorm Sandy, but Building Official Jim Gilleran is adamant about one thing that hasn't -- owners must get permits before having repair work done on their homes.

"The homeowner or landlord must make sure whoever they hire comes in for a permit and is licensed," Gilleran said. Since the storm, the town's Building Department has issued permits for about 60 replacements for boilers, furnaces and hot water heaters and 25 to 30 permits for construction of roofs or sheetrock repair.

Based on those numbers, Gilleran surmises that many property owners likely are having repair work done without first securing the proper permit. "I'm propbably looking for about 1,000 permits," he said, "and none of those people have come in."

Town officials estimate that about 2,000 homes were damaged in the town's flood-zone area during the late-October storm period.

So far, about 30 homes have been deemed unsafe, requiring the owners to hire a structural engineer. Gilleran said he will need to go through the area with the other members of the Condemnation Board -- Health Director Sands Cleary and Fire Marshal William Kessler -- and decide which structures need to be condemned. "There's six or seven so far that have come down," he said.

In some instances, property owners will have to make a decision whether to rebuild or repair based on insurance payouts, as well as Federal Emergency Managment Agency regulations. Owners cannot spend more than 50 percent of the assessed value of the building without bringing the new structure up to FEMA standards.

Often, Gilleran said, "the piece of sand is worth more than the house is."

Under state statutes, emergency repairs can start without a permit, but an application must be submitted within one day of the work starting. Also, some activities, such as fence repair, repainting or replacing cabinets and countertops do not require permits.

However, any work that requires moving pipes or cutting into walls does require a permit.

greilly@ctpost.com; 203-556-2771; http://twitter.com/GreillyPost