This just keeps happening to even the best of us! We can’t find an old building permit, zoning permit, inspection record, or similar document related to past work on our real estate. Neither can the township. Code has changed. Inspectors have retired. Goblins broke into the township, stole all the records for a tax block, and threw them in the Delaware (Forgive me – I’ve heard many stories about lost and destroyed records, some of which are true). And now, the property owner is being questioned about zoning and building permits. Often, this happens during new renovations, a sale of the property, as a result of a complaint, etc.
Without adequate documentation, the property owner might have to submit zoning, planning, and/or construction applications to continue using a property the way the owner has for decades. This comes with great expense and frustration. Land use is technical and requires specific documentation and possibly approvals to protect the use and value of the property.
So be warned: property owners should maintain their own records of every building permit, zoning permit, planning application, appeal, inspection, notice, and similar regarding their real estate. There is no expiration date on how long these records should be maintained. Scan them. Put them in a safe or safe deposit box. Make sure you or your loved ones can find them when the need arises years later. And do not assume that, when the need arises, a complete record will be on file at the municipality.
For more on this topic: read my article, Missing Construction Permits.