How to Get a Building Permit in Los Angeles

Even for the most experienced builders, acquiring the proper building codes and permits in the city of Los Angeles can be hard. From the environmental issues to the bureaucracy of obtaining building permits, renovating or erecting a new structure is no easy feat.

Even property owners themselves will tell you that the most challenging part of any construction project is the process of getting a building permit. Luckily, we’ve mapped out some of the common pitfalls of this process and things to be aware of before embarking on a construction project.

By following these steps, you’ll be able to avoid most of the common stresses people experience when getting a building permit.

What is a building permit?

A building permit is a written authorization that is issued by a city or county to construct a project. In Los Angeles, most remodeling or construction projects require one or more building permits.

Permits ensure public safety by making individuals and entities comply with local building, zoning, and construction codes. While obtaining the necessary permits for a construction project may be tedious, they are there to make sure people stay safe.

Check out our other article on what construction projects you need a building permit for. Keep in mind that whether you need a building permit and the types of building permits needed will mainly depend on your exact location and the project itself.

Building permits boast the following benefits:

  • Incentivize you to come up with a plan for your construction project
  • Protect you against liability claims if someone becomes injured on the property
  • Ensures that contractors abide by the safest construction methods to pass inspection
  • Add value to a property

How do I get a building permit?

Obtaining a building permit is a process, but as long as you are aware of the steps and prepare, it should be straightforward. Most construction projects will need a contractor and a liaison to help with the permitting paperwork.

Working with experienced professionals is your best bet in making the building permit process easy. This is because contractors and permitting agencies know the process already, plus they will know which permits are needed based on the project requirements and local areas.

Below are the exact steps to follow on how to get a building permit in Los Angeles.

Steps to get a building permit in Los Angeles

These are the important steps on how to get a building permit in Los Angeles:

1. Prepare a site plan

First, come up with a full-fledged plan for the site or property where you intend to do work. It may be necessary to enlist the help of an architect or another professional who can draw up plans to show the project will adhere to local codes.

2. Speak with local code officials

Your project plan must be approved by the Department of Building and Safety. This is when they can accept the plans, reject them, or ask that revisions be made.

To avoid having to go back to the drawing board and start all over, speak with local code officials first about construction expectations. They can give you important details to work into your project plans or refer you to other necessary departments for further help.

At the end of the day, property owners are the ones responsible for complying with regulations, so make sure you ask local authorities and do your homework.

3. Discover which permit(s) the project needs

Ultimately, the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety will issue permits such as:

  • General building
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Heating & air ventilation
  • Elevators
  • A/C permits

For each of these, the Department of Building and Safety may require anything from plan approval to work permits to environmental permits and more.

4. Check for environmental issues

Environmental hazards are a very real part of the building permit process in California. Builders should be sure to check for requirements regarding wildfires, flooding, and other natural disasters. The Public Works Department will typically review project plans for storm drainage and flood risk.

Builders may also need to speak with the Geo-Technical and Materials Engineering Division to make sure that the property is geologically stable and that the soil conditions are okay for building on top of.

5. Find out zoning information

If you’re changing the structure of a building or adding something new, you need to check zoning requirements to know what is allowed and what is not allowed.

Planning and zoning departments often require unique permits and have their protocol. They often don’t communicate well with other building departments. Unfortunately, this can sometimes result in contradictory requirements.

Always assume these departments don’t communicate with one another. This will be the safest as far as obtaining permits.

6. Complete permit applications

Any permits required by local Los Angeles building authorities must be obtained before any work is begun on the project. Starting construction without the proper permits in place is illegal. Luckily, there are permit expediters like us who can make the application process fast and smooth.

To get the permit, you may need to schedule an appointment. If the permit process is straightforward, you may qualify for an “over-the-counter” review. If your project is a little more complicated, it could take several days or weeks for plans to be approved and permits granted. Any necessary revision to the project will make it go even longer (although following step 2 should prevent this).

7. Schedule inspections

Once you have the approval you need and building permits, the work is not yet done. As construction is carried out on the project, you must schedule inspections. Inspections are a legal requirement in Los Angeles because the city must verify that the plans and codes are being followed properly.

Things to keep in mind for getting a building permit

Here some items to be aware of when learning how to get a building permit in Los Angeles:

Time

When plans need to be reviewed, it can take time for departments to look them over. If corrections need to be made, then that also adds to the total time of the construction project. Once corrections are made and plans re-submitted, it can take another 2-3 weeks for the city to give permit approval.

It’s important to not schedule any building times or contractors until you get full approval.

Cost

As far as how much it costs to obtain all the right permits, know that the price can widely vary.

When you go speak to local building councils and authorities, be sure to always have price worked into your questions list. Many times, the permit price will include the cost of any inspections, so be sure to ask about this with your local Los Angeles authority.

Clearances

For final approval, there is a good chance you will need to go through clearances. This can be things like:

  • Planning
  • Fire
  • Cultural Committees
  • Oil and Gas
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Transportation;
  • and more

Keep these in mind as part of the construction preparation process.

Why it’s easier with a permit expediter

Even when you go to the right institutions and get all of the proper paperwork in order, the permitting process can still be long and tedious. You and your project would benefit from hiring a permit expediter who knows the process already and can optimize the time it takes to get a building permit in Los Angeles.

We hope this article on how to get a building permit in Los Angeles has helped you understand the steps better. To enlist the help of Permit Resources, please contact us here.

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