Usually, you can contact the locality and have an inspector come out. If the inspection requires ripping some of it apart or making changes, then that needs to be done. If he gets to them before they get to him, there shouldn't be any penalties, just charges for the permit.
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I agree with the prior answer, however, I question the requirement for the deck to be free standing. I cannot believe that the VA building code would not allow it to be tied into the house. You should ask the Inspector for the code section he is citing and then read the code for yourself.
*I suggest that you hire a contractor, and have the contractor draw up plans for the deck to include any changes necessary to make the deck conforming. Then have the contractor pull a building permit for the deck and make any necessary changes so that it can be inspected and closed.
If code enforcement or the building department inspect it without an open permit, your parents could be fined. Many jurisdictions charge double (or more) for "after the fact" permits.
You will not get a variance from this kind of requirement.