A building permit is a document granting permission for an owner or developer to begin work on a construction project. This may include a small remodel, a new deck or driveway or a major multi-story development. These permits are issued by local or regional government authorities, including city or county. Many big cities or heavily-populated jurisdictions have specific agencies dedicated to building and permit services. Other areas require those seeking permits to visit a more general government agency, such as city hall or the local courthouse.
The process of obtaining a building permit varies widely by region. In general, applicants must start by visiting or calling the local building permit authority to obtain an application form. The applicant fills out the application, which typically includes information about the type of project being built and the methods of construction. The applicant must then submit the building permit application, along with required documents such as blueprints, site plans and applicable permit fees to the local authority. In many cases, the permit offices will check over documents quickly and confirm that all required information is included.
After all documents are received, the permit agency will review the information and check that the project meets local building requirements. They may see if the proposed building meets construction safety codes, fire codes, and accessibility laws. They may also consider the environmental impact of the project on local waterways, wildlife, or plants. Some projects may also be reviewed by historic preservation or urban planning committees, and may even be subject to community hearings to discuss the impact of the project on local residents.
The building permit authority will then contact the applicant to request changes to the project, or to let the applicant know that the permit has been approved. The applicant can then pick up the building permit in person. This may requiring paying an additional permit fee, though some permits are free. The building permit is typically valid for one year, though periods may vary, and is generally required to be displayed on the job site throughout the duration of the project.
Depending on local building requirements, almost anyone involved in the project can apply for and receive the permit. On commercial jobs, the contractor, architect, plumber, electrician or owner will often apply for the permit. For residential work, the homeowner, architect or builder may take care of this process. Those who need additional help with the process can contact a permit expediting company, which is a firm with a high level of experience at obtaining building permits. These firms can often get permits more quickly than other applicants because of their experience and contacts with local permit agencies.