Approved or Permitted: What’s the Difference?
Recently one of our clients ran into a problem with his General Contractor. He told the contractor that the project was permitted. The Contractor mobilized and scheduled his subcontractors to get to the site to start work. Unfortunately, when the GC went to City Hall to pick up the permit, it was not ready. Why? Because the project had been approved, but not permitted. The GC wasn’t happy.
Projects go through an approval process that often includes a few City/County departments, including Planning, Building, Public Works, Engineering, Health, Fire, Historical Review, etc. Once all of departments have approved the project, the Architect and Project Applicant are notified of the approval. At that time the Applicant typically must pay building permit fees. Other steps before the permit is available can include items such as obtaining a receipt for payment of the school impact fees, getting a waiver with the jurisdiction for cutting open the sidewalk for utilities, paying bonds, verification of tree protection measures, and filing deed restrictions.
After fees have been paid and other miscellaneous items completed, then the permit is prepared and available for pickup. That’s when it is OK to tell the General Contractor that the project is “permitted”. The miscellaneous items vary per jurisdiction and also the scope of the project.
In our office we are careful not to use the terms “approved” and “permitted” interchangeably, but not all Planning & Building Departments make the distinction. That leads to confusion for our clients, the Project Applicants.
As a rule, when we are told that a project is “permitted” we ask if that means the permit is ready to be picked up. Sometimes we are told, “Yes, if such-and-such fees are paid.” So, in reality, the answer is—No, it isn’t ready to be picked up. The fees must be paid first and only then will the permit be ready for pickup.
If time is of the essence, and your project is in the permitting process, please discuss with your General Contractor and Architect about your availability to pay the permit fees in person, so that the permit can be “pulled” (obtained or picked up) from the permitting agency. In many cases, your Architect can find out in advance what the fees will be, and you can prepare checks to be given to the School District and the permitting agency. If you will be unavailable, or out-of-town, when the project is approved, you may wish to make arrangements to have your Architect pay the fees on your behalf and then bill you back.
No matter who is handling the permit fees, coordination and communication between the Architect, Project Owner, and General Contractor is important. That way, no one will be left hanging if the project is “approved”, but not “permitted”.
Thank you for reading, and as always, we are “Designing for Your Reality”.
By Lorianna Kastrop, Vice President, The Kastrop Group, Inc. Architects