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Top Ten Building Permit Application Tips

Building_Permitting_Miami-Dade_Broward_Palm BeachAs a part of our permit processing services we review all documents that are submitted in the permit packages created by us, or by our Clients, and we are constantly complemented by the building departments on the completeness and accuracy of our building permit packages.

I have put together the top ten permitting tips for the Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties which I think will be beneficial to the seasoned contractor, as well as homeowners and start-up construction contractors.

#1. Which Building Department? – The first step is the verify which building department has jurisdiction over the job site address. The postal address may not be the same as the municipality that has jurisdiction over issuing Building Permits. This especially true in Miami-Dade County and Palm Beach County where there are large unincorporated areas that are under the control of the Counties. Typically the Property Appraisers page will indicate the building department having jurisdiction. Caution! That information may be related to the tax identification number. The is true in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. The first two digits of the property tax I.D. indicate the jurisdiction.

#2. Which Forms Do I Need? – Most municipalities have websites, and the Building Department pages have their forms available on the sites. Many have checklists to inform you on exactly what you need to submit. Use the website forms and follow the instructions on the checklists. Many seasoned contractors have the bad habit of using forms they have in a drawer, or stored in a directory on their computer, which may have been replaced. Always use the Building Department websites to get the forms you need.

#3. The Permit Application – This is considered a legal document. No copies are accepted, and all required signatures need to be notarized and original. If there are improper notaries the Building Department will not accept the application. They expect the form to be complete. No black spaces! If something does not apply, put N/A in the box. Many municipalities that require the Owner’s signature on their forms will request “Proof of Ownership” documents. That means the will require corporate documents that show the individual that signed the document is an Officer of the Corporation that owns the property. If the property is owned by an individual, the Property Appraiser page, printed, and attached to the application will suffice. This is the number one problem that occurs in the Building Permit application process. If you have a job in North Miami Beach they will not even accept your application without “Proof of Ownership”. Other municipalities such as Miami Beach, Miami-Dade, Coral Springs will accept the application but will delay issuance of the permit until the ownership issue is resolved. Get your paperwork correct up-front and it will save you time. Be aware that the Florida Building Code allows the Building Department to dispose of you application and construction documents after 60 days if you do not address issues or comments.

#4. Contractor Registration – All licensed contractors are required to be registered in each municipality. Some have notarized registration forms and annual registration fees. The documents required are pretty standard. C.O.I’s, State License, B.T.R. and a clear copy the Qualifier’s D. L.  Some people do not realize that the State License holder is referred to as the “Qualifier”.  If you have a Certified Building Building Contractor or General Contractors License in the State of Florida you are the “Qualifier”. Actually that applies to all Licenses.

#5. Construction Documents – Two complete packages of all construction documents are required by most Building Departments. The Cities that have now gone digital only require one, but to be safe, check their website. There are a few that require three or more. If there are sealed documents, additional copies must be original. No copies are accepted, and that includes reports such as, asbestos surveys and heat load calcs. If you have a commercial job, or are doing demolition work, you may need to have your construction documents reviewed and approved by County agencies. Get those approvals first, before submitting to the local Building Department.

#6. Digital Submissions – If you are not completely familiar with uploading digital permit documents. I highly recommend that you do not attempt it. The Building Departments require specific document naming and directory location for specific documents. You will also not be able to upload documents with embossed seals signed by a design professional. The will need to be electronically sealed per Florida Statue. I recommend that you hand deliver the permit package and pay the fees that the City charges for them to scan your documents into to their system. There also can be delays when you upload your permit package.  If anything is improper or incorrect in the documents you submitted you may not know for days. Having a live person review your paperwork could save you time.

#7. Permit Fees – Most municipalities now have up-front fees when you submit a building permit application. Some even charge all their fees up-front. The fees can range anywhere from 2  percent to 10 percent of the total job cost. I do no recommend that you try to cheat on the job costs. They may request a copy of the contract between the customer and the contractor. Their fees are based on the job cost information on the application and the construction documents submitted as a part of the permit application package. They may have fee sheets for building trades that calculate fees based on quantities of fixtures (plumbing), devices (electrical), and tons (mechanical). Payment options may be limited. Cash needs to be small bills, and credit cards are limited based on the fees charged by credit card companies. Unlike retailers, the government entities do like to absorb the fess charged by credit card companies. Checks are your best option. Unlike retailers, even fees due posted on their website my change after you have paid the fees, and they post that statement on their websites. In other words, even if they screw-up, you need to pay them the additional fees. In addition, bring several checks. Believe it or not, some Cities require separate checks for different fees.

#8. Plan Review – The question that we are always asked is; “How long will it take to get the permit?. The government works in mysterious ways,  and there is no definite answer. Typically, it is three days on average per discipline. Most Building Departments have real-time data on their websites for tracking plan reviews and the associated comments. There is no consistency in website design and software used for their Building Permit databases, so finding the plan review comments and permit status information can give you a headache. They may even require setting up a user account to access the information.

#9. Addressing Comments – There is no consistent procedure between Building Departments. Generally, when you bring in corrected construction documents, that address comments made by the plan reviewers, the sheets or pages that are being replace need to be voided. The Building Department terms for these changes to the submitted construction documents is rework, recheck or corrections. Some people use the term revision, which is incorrect. A revision is when you are making changes to a Building Permit that has already been issued. A response letter is required, and the changes on the plans need to be clouded so plan reviewers do no have to waste time searching for the changes in the updated construction documents. You will need to know which disciplines to send the corrected plans too.

#10. Is My Permit Ready to Issue? – You checked the Building Department website and it may say the permit is approved, or ready to issue. Be careful! Many municipalities have processes they go through, such as pricing, before a Building Permit is actually ready to be picked-up. There also could be a balance due because of additional review fees. If you are not familiar with the Cities procedures, call them before you make a trip there. Hopefully they will answer the phone. Some will send emails, or call the contact numbers on the application with the denied or approved status, and balance due. That is why the information entered on the Permit Application needs to be accurate. Some of our Clients have a bad habit of putting 1-800 or main phone number on the application that go to a operator that has no clue on why they are receiving the call.

I hope this has been helpful, and if you need help with your building permit processing, please give us a call. We over over 30 years experience in construction and building permitting in South Florida. Specifically Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

Manufacturers and Contractors Beware!

Permt_Source_Welcome_ to_South_FloridaWe constantly get calls from manufacturers and out-of-state building contractors interested in expanding into the South Florida area to sell building products and materials, or in the case of contractors, wanting to offer construction services. The conversation always involves the question of what the building permitting process is like in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. The simple answer is that it can be very complex depending on what you want to have permitted.

Over the past ten years we have had at at least a dozen Clients, the majority being building contractors, that set-up offices in the area without doing their due diligence on the viability of  their contracting business, and the impact that the building permit process would have on the success of their business. They have all since closed their doors. Some purchased the rights to sell a construction product in the State not realizing that the product had State of Florida product approval, but was not approved for use in the high velocity hurricane zone (HVHZ) area of South Florida.

I highly recommend that manufacturers of building products, and building contractors do their home work on the permitting process in Florida, and especially the South Florida area. Review the Florida Building Code and become familiar with those sections referring the the high velocity hurricane zone. I would also recommend that you become familiar with the local Codes and Ordinances of the Counties and Cities you want to target for sales. They can be very different. Even some experienced and seasoned local contractors refuse to do work in some Cities and Counties because of the tedious, time consuming and aggravating  process of getting a building permit issued.

Feel free to call us if you have questions about the building permitting process in South Florida. Specifically, Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. We may not have all the answers, put we can point you in the right direction.

Window & Door Permits

Window_Door_Permits_Miami_BeachMiami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties are all in the high velocity hurricane zone. This requires that all products installed  meet certain pressure requirements, depending on the height of the structure, the zone the openings are located in, and the exposure category of the building. The products will require a Miami-Dade County Notice of Acceptance (N.O.A.), or a State of Florida Product Approval that states that the product is approved for use in a high velocity hurricane zone (H.V.H.Z.).

Pressure requirements are site specific. A standard table, that is accepted by some building department in Broward County can be downloaded by clicking here.  If a building department does not accept the standard wind load chart you will need to acquire engineered wind pressures for your widow or door retrofit. Engineering Express is a resource that you can use for standard, engineered wind load charts, or site specific engineering. Structures over 40 feet in height will require site specific engineering. Standard, or generic wind load charts will not be accepted.

That gets you through the building department issues. Now you will need to deal with Zoning issues, and those issues can be related to historic districts. Many buildings in coastal areas, such as Miami, Miami Beach and Hollywood, have designated historical districts. Zoning will require conformity to the original architectural look of the building. Window grid patterns and mullion sizes will need to be consistent with the building design. This can be challenging! Trying to retrofitting windows to existing openings in a building built decades ago. Complying with current Building Code egress requirements, and then trying to meet the Zoning requirements may seem almost impossible. Typically, egress and safety requirements supersede Zoning design requirements, but it is a battle.

Permit Source is very experienced in assisting Contractors in their window and door building permit retrofitting issues. We can help you with the more demanding building departments like, Miami, Miami Beach, Hollywood, and Coral Gables.

E Permitting & Electronic Plan Review

EPermit_Permit_SourceBuilding Departments, like all local Government agencies, are looking at way to keep costs down. With the internet and the digital era in full swing, some are instituting electronic permitting and electronic plan review as a cost saving, more efficient way to process building permits and construction documents. Miami-Dade County was one of the first to start electronic plan review, several years ago. Boca Raton followed shorty after. Just recently, Pompano Beach, Town of Davie, Village of Wellington and Broward County initiated electronic plan review. As time goes on, more municipal building departments will be taking advantage of this technology.

Policies and procedures on E-Permitting (Electronic Permitting) and electronic plan review differ from municipality to municipality. This creates a new learning curve as apart of the Building Permit process. In most cases it does not eliminate the need for you to actually make a trip to the Building Department. Applications still need to be hand delivered, or in the case of Miami-Dade, electronic documents have to be physically submitted on a disc. They all do still allow manual submissions of paper documents, but they charge to have them scanned into a pdf digital format.

With electronic plan review the review time is less, since the plan can be reviewed by different disciplines simultaneously. There is also the advantage of not having to print, drag around, and microfilm the hard copies for achieving. For large projects this is a huge cost savings for the City, architect, contractor and owner. Large contracting, architectural and engineering firms all ready have the hardware and software for processing digital construction documents.

Electronic plan review has few advantages for the small contractor. The guy who does driveways, fences, windows or anything involving minor renovations that require plans. He may not have the hardware, or software to scan documents into a pdf  file format. He will also need to have the ability to print the full sized plans from a digital file. In addition, he will need someone in his office to have the computer savvy to be able to learn and understand the electronic plan review software and the policies for each municipality on E-Permitting. Another issue that pops-up for the small jobs, is an architect or engineer that does not have the ability to electronically sign and seal construction documents, but that is a discussion for another day.

If you need help, or you want someone to manage your E-Permitting. Give us a call. Permit Source has the experience and knowledge. Big jobs or little jobs!

New 2010 Florida Building Code

2010_Florida_Buiilding _Code_Wind_Bebri_RegionsThe new 2010 Florida Building Code will be implemented on March 15, 2010, and it includes significant changes to areas of South Florida. Specifically, the High Velocity Hurricane Zone Areas have been increased to include a much larger land mass and now covers areas that were not in the 2007 Florida Building Code. How will these changes affect contractors, manufacturers and permitting in South Florida? Until the changes are fully implemented nobody really knows for sure.

Tom Johnston, president of the International Hurricane Protection Association has the opinion that, “this adoption of ASCE 7-10 places an unnecessary burden on manufactures to update their product approvals to reflect a new code version when very little material differences have occurred. In addition, a net result of slightly less stringent design pressures is not a step in the right direction. All of this occurring during these difficult economic times makes this code modification even more of an ill conceived decision.”

According to the Home Builders Assocition, for central and south Florida the WBDR is increased and now will include all of the following; Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe, Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Indian River, Brevard, Volusia, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Polk, Charlotte, Lee, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Okeechobee, and Highlands. The result of these changes will mean there will be new areas with requirements for opening protection in accordance with Chapter 16 of the code.

There are also changes to the Energy Code which will affect Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, but it seems, that the largest impact of the new Code from a cost and procedural stand point, will affect Central Florida more so than South Florida. By no means does that diminish the increased costs for building permitting. Procedural changes that building departments will institute will require contractors to produce additional paperwork and forms, and then there is  the increased costs incurred by manufactures that will be pasted on to consumers. Let’s not forget the additional costs that the local architects and engineers will need to pass on the their Clients.

To summarize, it is a good thing that the HVHZ areas have been increased. Yes! The Wind Born Debri Regions in the 2007 and earlier Codes never made any sense, but have the other changes made buildings any safer? Or, have the changes just added more costs to the consumer, created more bureaucratic procedures and paperwork, and made the process of designing, building and permitting a construction project more of a nightmare that it already is, in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties? Only time will tell!