Skip to main content

Is there any way to legalize a deck that was built with no permit?

Centreville, VA |

We are in the process of selling my parent's townhouse. During the process we discovered my father had built the deck without getting permits and the deck is not in compliance with current code (has to be free standing and isn't).

I am told that if we find a buyer, their bank probably won't approve them for a loan unless the deck is brought in compliance.

Is there a way to legalize the deck even though it doesn't comply with current code or is tearing down our only option? I heard something about filing for "variance". What is that and does that apply to our situation? The house is in Fairfax County, VA.

+ Read More

Attorney answers 3


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.

Mr. Goldstein is a Virginia-licensed attorney only. The information is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation. Answering this question does not in any way constitute legal representation. Contacting Mitchell Goldstein or the Goldstein Law Group does not constitute legal representation, nor is any information you provide protected by attorney-client privilege until otherwise advised.

Philip M. Block

Philip M. Block


I agree, however seeking a variance requires claiming a hardship that was not self imposed. So if your parents built the deck, a variance is not likely, But for example if they were defrauded by a contractor who told them no permit was required? etc.?


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.



the house most likely has a brick facade. the ledger board must be attached directly to the structure and bolted to it. if there is brick, then the ledger board can not be directly attached.


*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.