The last thing an owner wants when embarking on an expensive renovation is an obstacle. That’s why it’s critical to confirm if a permit is required and what the inspection process in the jurisdiction where the construction is occurring entails.
Municipalities want to know when physical changes are occurring because they have an obligation to protect the community if they feel the changes are not code compliant. The municipalities perform this through the permitting and inspection process. Changes such as Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades; the redefining of spaces; and upgrades to electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, fire life-safety systems and roofing are required to meet current codes and are typical scopes a municipality may want the right to review.
The permitting process can be lengthy depending on the scope and jurisdiction. Some cities review aspects of buildings that may not be part of the scope, resulting in seemingly simple modifications becoming more involved. Others will focus on just the work to be performed.
If you choose not to notify the jurisdiction of the proposed upgrades, there is a very real risk the local building department may shut your project down until all local regulations are followed. Building inspectors are known to drive around their communities looking for construction occurring. You may accidently pique their interest with the visibility of dumpsters and storage containers.
We recommend eliminating costly surprises by speaking directly with the building department and/or the municipality to better understand their needs and how long a permit may take to process. Your timeline and the municipality’s timeline do not always align and in some cases for some permits, months may pass before one is issued.
Also, certain subcontractors may be able to directly process just the necessary trade permit needed. Ask the municipality the policy on this.
Lastly, confirm the building department’s inspection schedule. In smaller towns they may outsource the inspections or may only inspect certain days of the week. Also find out the department’s capacity and the number of inspections that can be accomplished in a single day. A low number could result in the inspector not being able to fulfill your needs on a given day. This would prohibit the contractor from moving forward on some aspects of the construction if some areas have not yet been inspected.
Following this plan will allow you to anticipate municipal challenges that may occur when starting a renovation and provide foresight on any possible revenue impact.
Stephen Siegel is principal with H-CPM, a construction project management and owner representation company.