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New York City requires various permits for building structures throughout the city. Even internal work, such as plumbing and electrical services requires a permit through the New York City Department of Buildings (“DOB”). These permits show that you have the authority to work on a specific property for that particular project.

A Few Basics on Permits in New York City

Most construction work performed in New York City will require a building permit. However, some limited, minor projects may not need a permit. Examples of minor projects include things like:

  • Painting
  • Installing kitchen cabinets
  • Smaller cosmetic renovations

If you change the footprint of a building, do major internal work, or change the use of the building, you will likely need to apply for a work permit.

Keep in mind that even if you are doing only minor work in your home, the contractor that you hire must still have a Department of Consumer Affairs Home Improvement Contractor License.

Consequences of Building without a Permit

If you do not have the right work permits in New York City, some consequences can be very costly. Fines and penalties include the following.

  • If the work is on a one or two-family dwelling, the fine will be four times the fee payable for the permit. The minimum fine is $500.
  • If the work is on a building other than a one or two-family house, then the fine is fourteen times the cost of the permit. The minimum fine is $5,000.

If a project is only partially complete at the time that the fine is imposed, then the fine total will be decreased accordingly. The minimums are still effective, however. The DOB can force you to stop work until a permit issue is addressed.

In some situations, the Department of Buildings will assess a fine in the middle of a project once they realize that work is being done. They are specifically not allowed to issue the building permit until the fine has been paid. That means that work must essentially stop until the fine is paid in full.

Getting Your Permit—What is PE and RA?

A licensed Professional Engineer (“PE”) or Registered Architect (“RA”) will prepare construction drawings before you start a project. Those drawings are then submitted to the NYC Department of Buildings for approval of a work permit.

PAs and RAs must be licensed by the State of New York to be able to create plans that will meet permit standards. Only PAs and RAs can submit proposals for work. The DOB provides resources to help you find a PA or RA that can help you prepare your designs to get your building permit.  

Types of Building Permits in New York City

Determining whether you need a permit can be tricky, but knowing the types of building permits available will help you decide if a permit is necessary.

The most common kinds of building permits are much more “general.” They are divided into four major types.

  • NB: New structures
  • ALT1: Major alterations that will affect the use, egress, or occupancy of a building
  • ALT2: Multiple types of work, but there will be no effect on the use, egress, or occupancy of the structure
  • ALT3: There is just one major type of work, and it will not affect the use, egress, or occupancy of the building

Despite these more general categories, you can get permits for much more specific types of work as well. Examples include:

  • Asbestos and abatement
  • Concrete
  • Certificate of Occupancy
  • Electrical
  • Elevator
  • Plumbing
  • Scaffolds and Sheds
  • Signs

If you are doing several of these projects, you likely need an ALT2 permit, as noted above.

A Quick Overview of the Permit Process

You must follow relatively strict guidelines to ensure that you are complying with New York City law regarding construction. Permitting is the City’s way of making sure that you are creating safe structures that will continue to be stable for years to come.

  • Determine the scope of work.

You start the permit process by determining which permits are necessary for the type of work you want to do. A PE or RA will be able to help you decide what permits are required for the project you have in mind.

  • Have your professional create drawings of your plans and submit them for review.

Every project is required to have plan drawings. These drawings are then reviewed by the DOB to determine whether they comply with applicable laws. As part of the approval process, your professional may need to meet with the DOB representatives to go over the plan so that everyone is on the same page.

In some situations, these professionals can “self-certify” that their plans follow the laws that apply to the type of work that you are conducting. If a builder can do this, then that will reduce the time that it takes to get your permit approved so that you can get started with work.

  • Get plan approval and post the approval at the project site.

Once your professional has gotten approval for the plan, you must also post that approval at your project site. Posting lets everyone know that you do, in fact, have a permit, and there is no additional need to investigate for potential violations at that point.

  • Perform the work and go through an inspection.

Once your project is approved, you can begin work. Inspections may periodically occur while the work is being performed. Your RA or PE may also need to meet with the DOB as the project is underway to clarify any issues that crop up during the build.

Once the work is finished, you will have to go through a final inspection for DOB approval. If there are any issues, those will need to be corrected before final approval.

  • Receive a Certificate of Occupancy or Letter of Completion from the DOB.

Once the project is complete, you will receive either a Certificate of Occupancy for residential structures or a Letter of Completion for other types of buildings. In some cases, you may need to make changes to these documents. Once they are finalized, you get final sign off from the DOB, and your project is complete!

Dealing with Applications, Violations, and Other Issues

The permit process can be very cumbersome and time-consuming. One wrong step can also result in stop work orders and fines. Let Approvall do that type of work for you so you can get back to your project quickly. We can work to expedite permits and deal with stop work orders, just to name a few of our services. Contact us to learn more.