The laws in VA are very stringent. You may replace a fixture or device with one of the same specs without a permit, other than that the law requires a licensed individual (or the homeowner who signs a statement of responsibility)to perform the work.
Do people follow it? NOPE
Do inspection agencies have the personnel to enforce this? NOPE
Let's not simply equate this to electrical work, what about the deck held onto the structure with 16 penny nails? Sloppy work has been with us Lo these many years and will continue to be with us. If you can't live with that as an inspector, I suggest lots of Maalox tablets and nitro pills.
Technically, my type work requires the permit process be applied for every change. Do I enforce it? NOPE
Going through the committees would in effect stop the work cold for a month at a time, so I make certain all aberrations are noted on the as-builts, are code compliant, and within the scope of what the customer needed/wanted.
Don't know that this answers your question, but I hope it's what you're looking for.