If you want to build any kind of structure in or around Los Angeles, you will likely need to obtain a building permit. If you’ve never gone through this process before, building permits are official approvals by the local building department that make it legal for you to build or construct a home or commercial building. If your application for a building permit is approved, this means that your building plans adhere to local building codes and regulations.
Los Angeles requires building permits to make sure that a building is safe and structurally sound for anyone who enters. As such, any sizable remodel or new construction project will require a permit before work begins. If a permit isn’t obtained, any work that occurs could be demolished, after which sizable fines would almost certainly be levied.
The process of applying for and obtaining a building permit can be a lengthy one with numerous hurdles. If there’s an issue with your building plans or you haven’t provided the necessary documentation, your permit application could be denied. You can, however, mitigate this issue by retaining the services of a permit expediter.
A permit expediter is a real estate professional who understands how to prepare the necessary documentation for a permit while also navigating any issues that arise during the permitting process. Without an expediter by your side, any problem that occurs could delay your project by weeks or months. Permit expediters have the knowledge and skills needed to get your permit approved quickly.
Because of how many projects occur in Los Angeles on a monthly basis, permit expediters are practically essential to ensure that the local building department gets to your application at a reasonable time. The building department in LA is the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety. This department is responsible for issuing all permits that you would need during a construction project. They also inspect construction projects and provide people with a place to submit code violations. This guide goes into more detail about Los Angeles building permits and when they may be needed for your project.
4 Steps to Getting a Building Permit in Los Angeles
If a building permit is needed for your project, the permit application process can be separated into four steps. Skipping one of these steps could result in your application being denied, which delays the start of construction.
1. Zoning and Property Information
The first step in this process involves gathering all of the zoning and property information for the project at hand. To obtain this information, use the ZIMAS tool that’s provided by the LADBS. This tool allows you to identify the exact jurisdiction that your property is located in. Once you’ve found this information, it becomes considerably easier to determine which building permits you’ll need to obtain and what types of safety codes you should follow.
When you’re searching for your specific property in the ZIMAS tool, there are 10 separate parameters you can use to conduct your search, which include everything from address and street intersection to case number and council district. If you search by address, all that’s required is for you to enter the house number and street name.
2. Site Plans
You’ll also need to draw site plans, which must be submitted alongside your building permit application. While it’s possible to draw these plans on your own, the most effective and reliable method for drawing site plans is to hire an architect to handle the drawings for you.
During the course of drawing up site plans, you should have a clear understanding of what the building will look like once it’s constructed. After the site plans have been completed, the LADBS will look at these plans to identify if any safety flaws exist. If they do, the LADBS will require you to make revisions to your site plans before your building permit can be approved.
3. Plan Approval
The third step in the process is having your plans approved, which can take longer than you might anticipate if you haven’t requested assistance from a permit expediter. Before you submit your site plans with the LADBS, it’s highly recommended that you look through them several more times to check for possible errors. If you’re positive that safety violations don’t exist in your site plans, you can provide the plans and application to the LADBS.
As mentioned above, revisions could be requested if any safety violations are detected. The best-case scenario after submitting a building permit application is that your permit will be accepted and approved without any revisions being requested. You can be more confident that your site plans won’t need to be revised if you have a professional permit expediter look over the plans.
There are times when additional approvals will be needed if your project has a larger scope to it. Along with the planning department, you may need to seek approvals from Cal OSHA, CRA LA, transportation, fire, public works, cultural affairs, housing, DWP, LAUSD, and AQMD. Each department may have its own guidelines for what you need to submit to obtain approval.
The fourth and final step involves obtaining the necessary inspections. While the construction process is ongoing, the LADBS will request that several inspections take place. These inspections must occur at different intervals throughout the construction process. Unless you receive and pass the necessary inspections, you won’t be able to complete the project. There are many different types of inspections that could apply to your project, which include:
- Commercial building
- Elevator/pressure vessel
- Fire sprinkler
- Mechanical HVAC
- Temporary special events
- Green building
- Haul route monitoring
Every inspection will be recorded on a building card. Make sure that you have your building plans on hand at each inspection if you want to pass.
Factors to Consider for Your Project
There are several factors that you should consider before choosing which type of permit you need. First, it’s important that you know the exact type of building you’re set to construct before applying for a permit. While a standard building permit is necessary for most construction projects, you might also need to obtain HVAC, plumbing, and electrical permits if the work that’s set to be performed is going to interact with any of these systems in a substantial way.
While it can be a hassle to apply for additional permits alongside the primary building permit, obtaining approvals for HVAC, plumbing, and electrical permits is relatively easy and should be straightforward as long as your main building permit is approved.
Before you apply for a building permit, you should take the costs of a permit into account. Permit fees can be anywhere from 4-17% of the total project budget, which you should be prepared to pay to make sure that you don’t go over budget during construction. Keep in mind that paying for revisions could increase your total expenses, which is why it’s important that you get this process right the first time.
Once you’ve completed all of the necessary steps for obtaining a permit, your permit will be issued by the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety. When you go to pick up the building permit, you will need to have several things in hand, which include:
- Notarized authorization letters for any agents you have
- Copy of a business tax registration certificate from LA County
- A copy of your workers’ compensation insurance certificate
- Information for solid waste hauler permit
This information can be provided by the contractor you hire.
The Next Steps for Your Project
After you receive your building permit, the construction process can begin in full. Make sure that all of the materials and equipment that are required for the project have been delivered. If any shipment delays occur, the entire project could be delayed, which is why it’s important to stay on top of material acquisition.
The duration of the construction process largely depends on the size of the structure as well as the experience of the contractors you’ve hired. In general, constructing a home takes anywhere from 4-12 months.
If you have yet to obtain permits, you can seek assistance from Crest Real Estate. At CRE, we have the expertise needed to help you gather the necessary documentation for the building permit process. No matter how complex your project is, our permit expediters know how to make sure that building permits are approved in a relatively short period of time.
The services and resources available at CRE extend further than building permits. Our real estate firm can administer project management and assist you throughout every stage of the development timeline. Along with building permits and entitlements, CRE can also help with due diligence and design and massing.
Jason Somers, President & Founder of Crest Real Estate
With over 15 years of professional experience in the Los Angeles luxury real estate market, Jason Somers has the background, judgement and track record to provide an unparalleled level of real estate services. His widespread knowledge helps clients identify and acquire income producing properties and value-ad development opportunities.