Do we need a building permit?

Most likely, yes.

The evidence that you have permission to build is displayed by a permit…..Obtaining a permit is often the most misunderstood, and frustrating phase for an Owner who wants to quote Nike,  “Just do it”.

When one wants to remodel, build an addition or build new, it will require approvals from the local municipality. This process includes submission of applications, fees, drawings and related documentation to explain the project to an agency within the municipality.  Even for apparently simple repairs: widening a driveway for example, replacing a portion of a railing, may trigger the need for a permit…really.

These municipal agencies, such as a building department or engineering department, are typically composed of qualified employees that may have experience and education in their field of review.  Often, there is a mixture of agencies, boards and committees that will generally review the project together.

These agencies will analyze what is being done and confirm that the project complies with applicable regulations and often refer the project for further review by other agencies or boards.  Often their points of view differ and can cause delays even within the same department.  Additionally, submission requirements, codes and regulations are constantly changing -which can also wreak havoc for municipal agencies and design professionals alike.

From experience, I strongly suggest to get as much information related to submission requirements and carefully package your submission while observing submission deadlines to avoid later disappointments. Make sure to make copies for your records…’nuf said.

Since the municipal agencies staffing is based on revenue derived from tax collections, which is presently short due to the recession and related lay-offs, most building departments are presently running short-staffed despite having fewer projects to review.

So what length of time should one expect at this time for these reviews and related approvals?

For most smaller projects that our office has done over the past 13 years.: It generally takes between 2 – 6 weeks for your project to be reviewed and sent to one board for review. If all goes smoothly and there are not objections or revisions needed, we advise our clients that an additional 2-4 weeks usually are needed to obtain a building permit and allow construction to start. Additionally, the contractor must forward their licenses and insurance documents to the building department as part of the project’s submission.

For larger projects,  projects that are built in environmentally sensitive areas, or projects that may face neighbor opposition a period of 3-12 months is very common for obtaining necessary approvals.

Projects built without permits are easily discovered by the building department officials.  The tell-tale signs of dumpsters, calls from nosy adversarial neighbors, contractors with an axe to grind, and property transfers each signal the building department that work may have commenced without proper approvals.  At this juncture a stop-work order or other form of violation may be issued.

These penalties create delays, involve punitive fines, possible tax increases and will involve far more effort resolving than having obtained the approvals in the proper manner.

So think twice before you try to side-step the man.

Give us a call to review your specific situation 914 674 2950!