Cities and Towns in the United States > Procedures > All About Building Permits in the USA


Building permits are legal documents that allow you to construct a new building or reconstruct an existing one in the US. Multiple building permits are available for various building stages. Available licenses depend on where you live and the extent of the construction or remodeling.

Getting a building permit keeps you from paying additional licensure fees or facing local legal concerns that the insurance may not cover when reconstructing a home. In case of an accident that injures workers in the construction zone, the permit makes it easier to claim help from your insurance.

Getting a building permit

Who Can Request a Permit?

Anyone intending to erect a new building or reconstruct an old one requires a permit. Landowners who want to rezone their land to a new zone, change the land’s use from commercial to residential or vice versa, set up utilities, landscape the property, demolish the property, or include a new road on the map also need a permit.

You can also check our article on how to purchase a house in the U.S.

Who Is Responsible For Issuing a Permit?

The local authority in your city’s building and safety division is responsible for issuing build permits within your jurisdiction. Regardless of your project’s complexity, inquiring about the necessary licenses is advised. You can make a phone call, live chat with the support team, or visit city hall offices to make this inquiry.

Requirements and Documentation Needed

You have to submit documents to support your application process. Architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing line drawings, disability access and other compliance forms, and technical specifications are the supporting documents you must submit with your application form.

A plan review deposit that facilitates the process is also required. The plan review deposit must be paid before the reviewing process commences.

When, Where, And How To Request A Permit

Once your project plan is approved, you’re free to apply for a permit. Visit the building and safety division’s offices and request a permit. You must explain the nature of your building project to facilitate the provision of the correct form.

Fill out the required information on the questionnaire and attach copies of the necessary plans. Provide the supporting documentation, pay the plan reviewing deposit, and submit the application.

An online application is also available. You must complete the necessary steps and submit your application electronically via email.

Can You Check The Progress Of The Permit After Requesting It?

The building and safety team notifies you once the initial verification process is complete, but checking how far the team is from completing the permit request is possible. You can call the city council’s office and see how far along they are from completing your request.

Walking to the building and safety division offices is another option for checking your permit’s progress. If you speak to the relevant personnel, they will give you insight into how long you have to wait.

Cost, Validity, and Processing Time

The cost of a permit varies depending on the scope of work and the kind of construction you’re working on. However, private permits cost between 0.5% and 2% of construction spending. The prices scale up to 1% - 5% of the project’s value with commercial buildings. Most construction permits have an open expiration date as long as you keep the project active.

And when it comes to processing times, obtaining permits takes 4 weeks for non-structural residential improvements and remodels, 6 weeks for structural alterations, commercial improvements of 5,00SF and occupancy changes, and 8 weeks for new commercial buildings.