Anytime a property owner makes a structural change to a building or residence, she must get a building permit from the city or local building department and pay a fee. To get a permit, you must provide a drawing or sketch of the work you want to do. You can sketch an outline yourself or hire an architect, contractor, or builder to draw up a plan.
As work on your unit or building progresses, you'll get visits from a building inspector. Inspectors are paid to enforce local building codes. They look at such things as the structural soundness of an addition and whether electrical, plumbing, heating, and ventilation requirements are being met according to code.
Building inspectors also inspect existing buildings to see if they meet statutory standards. If they don't, the inspector can issue fines to the property owner or close the building.
To prepare yourself for the inspector, you can get copies of local health, safety, and fire codes from the county office and at city hall or the housing authority. If you live in a rural area, check with your township office to find out if the board has fair housing regulations and what is required by local building and zoning codes.