TipsMay 20, 2020

A Primer on Permits

The what, when, where and why of building permits
Building Permit

building permit job card

Why Do We Need a Permit?

We always work with permits and believe they are important, but occasionally we have clients ask why they need one. It’s a fair question. Despite their reputation, permits are not designed merely to cost you time and money. Permits are about protecting the health, safety, and welfare of you, your family, guests, and future owners.

How It’s Set Up

Community development departments are usually broken up into a Planning or Zoning Department and a Building Department.

The Planning Department:

The Building Department:

Other Parties Might Get Involved

While those two departments are the primary ones you will have to deal with, different municipalities have others that might get involved—the Fire Department, Public Works, and the Coastal Commission, for example. These authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ’s in the lingo) can all be part of the permitting process, depending on your location.

The Benefits of a Permit

In Conclusion

There may be a few tiny benefits to building without a permit, but the problems can be catastrophic if things go wrong. The cost for getting a permit can vary—they are usually around 3 – 5% of the construction cost, but can run up to 8 – 10% for some smaller projects. Permits can be obtained the same day or take over a year, depending on the municipality and the extent of the work. Be sure to ask your architect when you are interviewing them what they think the timing will be on your project. Even though it takes time and money, getting a permit for any construction project that requires one should always be viewed as a non-negotiable part of the process.

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