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Filing for a building permit in New York City has never been easier- or more difficult! – than with the use of DOB NOW. DOB NOW is the New York City Department of Building’s online system which enables owners or their representatives to apply for permits or file documents directly through the DOB website. While it eliminates the hassle of physically applying for a permit, the online application process comes with its own headaches.

1. Only specific people can register for an account

As with most online services, use of DOB NOW requires the creation of an account. The current platform in use is the Department of Building’s eFiling system. When creating an eFiling account, you’ll be separated into one of two categories:

  • I do not have a license or DOB issued ID #- use this category if you’re a Building Owner, Manager, Representative or other Filing Representative 
  • I have a license or DOB issued ID #- use this category if you’re a Professional Engineer, Registered Architect, Licensee, Special Inspector, Progress Inspector, Master Plumber, Oil Burning Equipment Installer, Electrical Contractor, General Contractor, Sign Hanger, High Pressure Boiler Operator, Stationary Engineer, Site Safety Manager, or Elevator Inspector

In the instances where you don’t fall into one of these categories, there’s also a good chance you won’t need a permit! Homeowners and other DIY-ers looking to self-perform some renovation work seldom need the same level of permitting as general contractors and other professionals.

Additionally, using the DOB NOW: Build portal for building permits is different from other DOB NOW portals such as the one for building inspections. You’ll need to create separate accounts if you’re dealing with both. Luckily remembering two passwords is slightly easier than making two trips to the DOB office!

2. It’s not possible to apply for all types of permits through DOB NOW

While New York is a cutting-edge city in many regards, pulling permits is not one of them. DOB NOW is still a relatively new system. It’s intended to eventually replace the pre-historic system of bringing your paperwork down to your borough office and filing in person. As a result, it’s not possible to use DOB NOW for all of your permit pulling and application needs.

So what kinds of permits can you expect to apply for through DOB NOW?

  • Plumbing, Sprinkler, & Standpipe
  • Antenna and Curb Cut
  • Sidewalk Shed, Supported Scaffold, Fence and Sign
  • Electrical
  • Elevator
  • Limited Alteration Application
  • Place of Assembly/Temporary Place of Assembly

This might seem like a long list, but it doesn’t begin to scratch the tip of necessary permits when building in NYC. If your needs don’t fall into one of these categories, you’ve just won yourself a trip down to your borough’s DOB office!

3. Your information will become public

New York City keeps records of everything– from permits pulled at a certain address to slices of pizza you’ve eaten in the last year (joking- for now!) Once you apply for a permit or submit any other documentation through DOB NOW, that information will be on record for public access. The purpose of keeping this information public is to foster transparency and help prevent shady or illegal practices. This is especially important in the world of permitting, where a wad of cash and a handshake were once the preferred method of doing business.

4. You may still need to visit your borough DOB office

The majority of information you submit is generally available online after filing. That being said, in many instances you will need to pay a visit to your local DOB office in order to receive specific types of information. For example if you’re looking for a copy of a plan set that has already been submitted, you’ll need to submit a request to the Record Room at the DOB office. The DOB NOW system still has some kinks and quirks which need to be worked out- until then, an in-person visit will still be the answer to many of your pressing questions.

5. Mistakes can be costly or time-consuming

If you’ve already submitted an application to DOB NOW but realize you forgot to include information such as a job number, it’s not possible to simply edit the submitted information. In order to revise the permit application, you’ll need to pay the record management fee once again.

In certain instances, applications must be submitted both through the DOB NOW: Build portal and an additional DOB agency. For example, when applying for New Building or Alterations through the eFiling system, the same plan set and information may need to be submitted again in order to correctly supply the info to all agencies.  

Getting started with DOB NOW doesn’t need to be a daunting task. A few ways to make this process easier include:

  • Making sure you’ve got all your paperwork together
  • Getting all necessary design approvals (ie from your engineer or architect)
  • Reviewing the information before submission

When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to ask for help from someone who’s familiar with NYC’s permitting process. Approvall NYC provides guidance throughout the permitting process, helping you to quickly get the permit or approval you need. For more information on navigating DOB NOW visit Approvall.nyc