When you think of a building permit, do you imagine bureaucratic paperwork, similar to obtaining your Driver’s Licence or passport for the first time? Well, in summary, that precisely what it is, with the difference that it will allow you to build something. Although, its also much more complicated.
Here we’ll guide you on how to get a building permit in Miami (or at similar locations).
When to obtain a Building Permit?
A building permit is an official approval issued by the local authorities in which your project is located, and required for safety and compliance of the building code, zoning code, fire code, and many others.
The process will look into many aspects of your project, such as structural integrity, minimum spacings, zoning and planning conformities, water and sewer capacity and lines, safety to its inhabitants, among many others.
In most cases, you’ll need to obtain a permit. The most obvious reason is when building a new project (home, building, construction). Furthermore, anything from a kitchen or bathroom remodeling to home extensions or changing a roof, window, or exterior doors will require a building permit. Check out City of Miami Building Department page for more information.
It might be easier to say when you don’t require a permit, but that too might vary from municipality to municipality, or even between communities. More on that coming up.
How to get a building permit?
Understanding that you do require a permit, the process is pretty straightforward anywhere where it’s required. Submit plans and documents to the authorities. They’ll review them and, assuming they don’t have objections – which they almost always do; give you a permit. Yay! Sounds easy, right? Not quite.
As mentioned before, the process looks into many aspects of your project. Depending on the type of it, it will require more o fewer reviews and reviewers.
Note: If your project involves New Construction or Extension, you should start looking for an Architect. A good Architect will hear your intentions, evaluate your site, and let you know all the requirements. In Miami-Dade and Broward, you will need an Architect to submit plans for a New Construction by code.
On the other hand, if you are looking to do a smaller project, such as remodeling, and would like to obtain a building permit yourself, here is the process:
1. Contact local authorities from community managers to building departments.
The first step is to contact and explain your intentions to your immediate community and go up from there. For example: if you live in a building and want to change the floor, ask the building manager what you’ll need from them and then contact the building department asking the same.
2. Prepare the permit application and additional material.
After contacting your local authorities, they’ll probably send you to get a Permit Application and start from there. Depending on your project, you might also need drawings of the work you intend to do. All applications ask who will be the General Contractor. If you have someone add him, on the contrary, if you don’t have one yet or want to wait for more prices to come in, you can submit the application package as a Dry Run. Also, remember to notarize your application!
3. Submit the permit application.
Some municipalities have an electronic plan submittal system; others still require the drop-off of two original physical packages.
4. Wait for Reviewers to review everything.
Have patience and follow-up. The waiting time varies significantly between Building Departement. Electronic systems reduce their time considerably. However, there may be a particular aspect of your process that takes more time than usual.
5. While waiting, track your Building Permit application for comments and approvals.
All Building Departments have an online system where you can track and view your application comments. If you submit the application electronically, check back in a day or two to see if everything went well through the pre-application step (where they check if the files are readable). After that quick follow-up, check back between two weeks and a month for any comments.
6. Follow-up in you haven’t heard back.
While most cities call or inform you when they finish the first revision cycle, sometimes you may miss the call, or the e-mail goes into the spam folder. If you haven’t heard back in a while, don’t be afraid to follow-up on them with a kind e-mail.
7. Answer and address comments.
Almost always, you’ll get at least one comment from a reviewer. Address them as soon as possible and resubmit. Go back to the previous three steps while waiting for their re-review.
8. When everything is approved, pull the permit.
Congratulations, your Building Permit Application is approved! Remember to ‘Pull the Building Permit’ before beginning any construction. If you haven’t already, add the applicable Contractor. Then, pay the Building Permit fees. Once you’ve paid, you’ll be issued the Building Permit.
9. Record a Notice of Commencement.
With the Building Permit issued, you’ll have to record a Notice of Commencement (NOC). The NOC is a document that you have to fill out, sign, and record it in your local Clerk of Courts. The first inspector to visit your project will require the recorded NOC, but most importantly, this states the date the work will begin (and the Lien Law applies). The best practice is to file it before the work begins.
Pro tip: If you go in person, take an envelope with a post stamp and always ask for a certified copy to have right away.
10. If required by your community, submit all the paperwork to them.
Your community will usually have another package list for you to fill-out and provide. Community Managers often request the Building Permit and NOC and Certificate of Insurance (COI) with an additional insured clause from your Contractors.
11. Finally, begin the construction.
That’s it! Well, almost. You still have to build your project and go through the inspections while doing so.
Your Contractor should know when to ask for inspections. Keep in mind that there are many inspections halfway into the construction. Don’t allow anything to be covered without an inspection unless it isn’t required.
Obtaining a Building Permit may look a tedious process, and I assure you, it is. Can you do it by yourself? Definitely. Just know what to expect and be patient. I’ll always recommend hiring an architect or ask your project’s Contractor to do this for you. It will save you time and probably money in the long run.