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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.

Permit Documents

whiteoutPermit applications, and all associated documents, that are submitted as a part of your application are considered to be legal documents. Depending on the type of documents, they may require original seals, and signatures, by the architects and engineers that prepared them. The actual application requires original notarized signatures. Copies of originals will not be accepted by the building department.

Modifications to the original documents with the use of whiteout or liquid paper is not permitted. Cross out the error or write over it. Do not try to cover it, or re-copy it. Most building departments will not accept permit documents and applications modified in this manner. Signed and sealed plans that are modified in this manner will also not be accepted.

Remember these documents are viewed as legal documents. Do not modify them!

Building Permit Database


“Is there one central location where I can get building permit history in the Sate of Florida?”  That is one of the most common questions I hear, and the answer is very simple. No! In South Florida alone, there are roughly one hundred building departments. Each having it’s own database, systems and procedures, and none of them link to each other in anyway. Some building permit data may be available on an individual municipalities website, but the quantity, and quality, of information varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

If you are looking for actual copies of building permit documents, the situation is even more dire. There are only a couple of municipalities that make copies of those documents available online, and that is only recently. For example,  about a year ago,  Miami-Dade County converted from paper document submissions to  digital permit document submissions in pdf format. Those documents can be retrieved via their website. Anything before the conversion is on micro-film and you have to physically go to their office to retrieve copies of the documents.

One of the services we offer at Permit Source is building permit document research and retrieval. You could spend hours just trying to get information by navigating through poorly designed websites, making phone calls, or leaving messages that go  un-returned . Our years of experience and daily interaction with the South Florida building departments allows us to move through the process much more efficiently. We already know the procedures, and where to go, to get the information and/or documents you need.

REO Property Preservation


The second quarter of 2010 has seen a Fannie & Freddie Real Estate Owned inventory increase of 74% compared to the second quarter of 2009.  That is a year to year comparison.  In addition, RealtyTrac says there were 94,466 foreclosures in the first half of 2010 in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, alone. This unprecedented number of foreclosures has created in increased demand for REO property preservation companies, permit processing services and foreclosed property maintenance services. Many of these property management and property preservation companies offer a limited selection of services.

Permit Source has joined forces with Maintenance Dynamics to offer a “One Stop Shop” for REO property maintenance and preservation services. We can offer you complete property maintenance services. We provide a comprehensive package consisting of  everything from simple trash-outs, lawn maintenance and re-keys all the way up to major renovations and new construction projects. The services we offer are for residential as will as commercial properties and we can supply everything from consulting services to full brick and mortar construction. In addition, there are numerous issues that can hold up the sale and occupancy by a new owner, such as open or expired permits, code enforcement liens, unsafe conditions like a faulty roof or exposed  plumbing and electrical wiring. We are here to help resolve these issues and more. We do everything from lawn care to unsafe structure resolution.

If you are a real estate broker, asset manager, or investor managing foreclosed properties in the Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County areas we can offer you a “One Stop Shop” for property maintenance and property preservation services. Please feel free to visit our websites, or contact our offices, for more information on our property preservation and property maintenance services for foreclosed properties. Private home owners are welcome too!

Big Brother is Watching


It is 2010 but we have finally reached 1984.  The Orwellian concepts of loss of personal freedom and state authority seem to have become not just a possibility but a reality. Our lighting speed information age has given everyone instantaneous access to all sorts of data, including personal information. That information is also available to the government.

I was listening to one of the radio talk shows and the discussion was about intrusive government. One of the commentators commented that he had heard of a local government using aerial photos to monitor construction that was performed without permits, by homeowners. The talk show host said that he did not believe it was true. Well, I can tell you first hand that it is true.

Several months ago I walked into one of the smaller building departments in Miami-Dade County. As I was waiting, I noticed that one of the staff was using Google Earth to scan residential properties and was comparing the aerial photos it to the historical permit data. Your are probably saying to yourself that this is just an isolated incident.  Not so! In a meeting I had with an environmental department staffer, not too long ago, I was shown how they track the number of trees on a property by using aerial photos. If a tree is missing and no permit was pulled for removal a hold is placed on that property.

The aerial photo above is from Google Earth of a neighborhood where I once owned a home. You can clearly see pools, fences, sheds, trees, and the foot print of the house. Even the color of the roof tile, which some cities regulate. Big brother is watching!