When do You Need a Permit? (Part 4) Work Permits

As part of this multi-part series on the most common construction permits, this entry addresses the 6 considerations of work permits.

Click here to read the first part where I explain the 6 considerations in detail.

Click here to read the second part where I review zoning applications.

Click here to read the third part where I review plan approvals

This week a couple learn a hard lesson when they hire an unlicensed contractor who makes off with their money in this unfortunate story from Grand Rapids Michigan.

The couple allowed roof replacement work to happen without verifying that the contractor filed for permits.  According to the building inspector, not only did the guy not pull permits, the work he performed did not meet code.

Now these folks are facing double the cost to repair and replace the damage done.

Work permits are required anytime you perform physical labor on your property.

Work permits may be required for anything from repairs to a full house remodel.  You can call your local Building Department to verify.

1. Function

Work permits give the Building Department a way of verifying that the construction work complies with code.  This level of oversight ensures safety for the workers, the owners, and the public at large.

2. Jurisdiction

The jurisdictional authority over work permits lies with the building department. The Building department issues work permits for each trades. Work Permits are typically required for demolition, carpentry, plumbing, electrical, and mechanical work.

3. Enforcement

The building inspector enforces compliance. Many building department have experts in specific trades that go out and inspect the work as it is being completed. Some smaller jurisdictions may have one person who is trained to inspect multiple trades.

After permits are issued, the building inspector requires the contractor to make a call for inspection as specific portions of the work are completed.  You may not proceed with the work until certain inspections are done.

For example, you might not be able to install gypsum board on both sides of a wall until the inspector can inspect the framing, electrical, and plumbing that gets enclosed inside the wall.

The Building inspector has the right to require certain portions of the work to be redone if the work fails to meet code.

Building Inspectors have the authority to levy fines and to issue “stop-work orders” if work is not performed according to regulations or inspections are not performed.

It is also possible for inspectors to order structures to be torn down if the work poses a safety or fire hazard.

4.Filing Process

The filing process requires a form to be filed for each trade. The form typically requires the scope of the work, the value of the work, the name of the trade contractor performing the work, and of course a fee.

Often the application also requires the contractor performing the work to produce proof of insurance and proof of license if the trade requires a license.

5. Responsible Party

As you may have guessed, the Contractor and his sub-contractors are responsible for these permits.

It’s good practice for each trade to file their own permits.  This ensures that the information on the form is correct and that the sub retains responsibility for the filing.

The GC should coordinate inspections.  Sometimes it makes sense to have more than one inspection together on a given day.

It’s not essential for each trade to be present during inspections, but the GC absolutely MUST be there.

6. Fees

The fee for the work permits is typically based on a percentage of the value of the work. It’s generally a small fraction of a percent for each trade.

Sometimes the trade contractor or the GC include the permit filing fees in their quotes.

Do not allow this.

Make sure that their quote includes only the cost of labor, equipment, and material, this avoids any over-payment on fees and mark-ups.

There should be no additional fees or costs from the team associated with these filing.


So as we conclude this multi-part series, you should now have a much better idea of what each of the most common permits are for and who is responsible for them.

I hope you found this series interesting and informative.  I hope none of you ever have to pay fines or experience the failures of the unfortunate owners we read about through this series.

So have you ever filed for work permits?  Did the inspector come out to inspect the work?  Tell me your story.

Thanks for reading.  If you enjoyed this content, please feel free to browse my previous articles and please like, share, comment, and subscribe.  This helps promote my content and is greatly appreciated.

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